Khaleda’s jail term and fresh expectations from ACC

Published at 12:05am on February 10, 2018

POLITICAL speculations about the court verdict on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia and, even, some ministers’ public predictions about her imprisonment term have come true in the Dhaka Special Judge’s Court 5 on Thursday sentencing her to five years’ imprisonment in the corruption case that involved a charity fund in the Zia Orphanage Trust, filed during the military-controlled interim government in 2008. While the punishment verdict may still need to go through two to three more stages, in the High Court and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and a probable review appeal, for it to finally hold, the governing Awami League appears to be happy about it as was reflected in the exuberance that ruling party and its other wings showed after the verdict that landed Khaleda Zia in jail. Patriotic sections of people would, meanwhile, start counting days, after the precedence regarding the trial of high-profile politician such as a former elected prime minister has now been set, as to when the alleged corruption of the people in power would be investigated and tried in the court of law.
But in the process, as it appears to have been from what had happened over a few days before the verdict was given, the government’s use of the law enforcement agencies have been glaringly partisan. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police ordered a ban until further notice on the assembly of five or more people, public meetings and carrying of firearms and sticks across the capital city to head off any trouble from Khaleda’s supporters and the steps that the law enforcers took that it looked like a general strike enforced by the government, not just in the capital but also in outlying areas. Dhaka was virtually shut within and severed from the rest of the country. The movement of public transports on the roads was thin reportedly at the order of the law enforcement agencies. But while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party mobilised people, especially around places close to the special court premises in Old Town of Dhaka and, thus, violated the police order on the day of the verdict, the ruling Awami League, in a greater extent, has nakedly violated the order, by mobilising its leaders and activists, along with the law enforcers, to counter BNP leaders and activists on the roads. While the city police arrested BNP leaders and activists at the slightest suspicion, they allowed leaders and activists of the Awami League and its other fronts to be on the road. It looked like a crude display of the partisan use of the law enforcement system.
Public perception about the case, meanwhile, runs thus that there could be irregularities in the fund management, which involves Tk 21 million, but the money has not been embezzled. With such a case, as it is against Khaleda Zia, there are no reasons for the government and the commission to be able to create any public impression that they are committed to bringing all the accused to justice irrespective of their political colour. For that to happen, they must investigate and file cases against such people connected to the ruling coalition who have reportedly embezzled hundreds of millions of takas over the past few years.