Eminent citizens, including politicians, said on Friday that the verdict that jailed BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia for five years would further deepen the political crisis and make inclusive general elections uncertain.
Talking to New Age and in statements, they said that all corrupt people, irrespective of their political affiliations, should be brought to justice.
They also called for punishment for people involved in corruptions and scams like Hallmark scam, Bismillah Group scam, BASIC Bank and Janata Bank scams, Bangladesh Bank reserve heist and share market scams, which that shook Bangladesh, to prove that the government wanted to curb corruption.
They observed that government steps regarding the verdict, including mass arrests, allowing ruling Awami League activists to defy ban on procession and irresponsible comments from the ruling party, were spoiling democratic atmosphere and created fear among people.
The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 on Thursday jailed opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia for five years and her eldest son Tarique Rahman, also BNP senior vice-chairman, and four others for 10 years in Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case filed in 2008.
The verdict came when BNP was in the streets for neutral election-supportive government for the next general election to be held by December.
‘Political uncertainty in the country further increased following the verdict,’ said Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said.
‘The people were in doubt about the next election and if they would get a chance to ventilate their opinion, but this verdict increased the uncertainty,’ he said.
‘If BNP does not participate in the next general elections, it would push the people in more tough time,’ said the academic.
‘Public perception is clear. People would not accept the verdict as they are not seeing punishment for other big scams,’ he said pointing at large scams in banks, share market and other sectors.
He also criticised the government for dropping graft cases against prime minister Sheikh Hasina after assuming power. ‘Such activities of the the authority are not acceptable.’
Communist Party of Bangladesh president Mujahidul Islam Selim said that the verdict raised question among people who found it politically motivated.
‘If Awami League wants to prove that there is no political motivation behind the verdict, it has to bring all corrupt members of their party to justice for embezzling thousands of crores of money,’ he said.
He why the government was not trying those involved in financial scams related to Basic Bank, Farmers Bank and Hall-Mark Group and in share market scams.
‘Country should be made free from sick political culture that party in power should drop all cases against them,’ he said, adding that the government should prove the equality of all before the law.
Incidents centring the verdict once again proved the bankruptcy of bourgeois political parties that made everything uncertain and chaotic in the politics, Mujahidul Islam said regarding the
uncertainty over the next general polls.
Ganasanghati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki said that the verdict intensified the uncertainty of a participatory general election. ‘People cannot keep confidence in election atmosphere when the prime minister is seeking vote and top political party leaders are visiting courts and jails,’ he said.
He said that Khaleda was convicted in a case filed during military-controlled interim regime. Grafts cases were filed against Sheikh Hasina also during the same regime but the authorities dropped the cases terming those politically motivated after the Awami League assumed power.
‘People finds cases against Khaleda politically motivated as the government without solving big scams involving billions of money pays more attention to her cases,’ he added.
Workers Party of Bangladesh, also an ally of the ruling AL, general secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha said that general principle of politics should be all corruption irrespective of political parties should go through proper investigation and come under purview of law for the sake of rule of law and good governance.
Had the country’s democracy developed properly, incidents of dropping of corruption cases against ruling party leaders would have come down, he said.
Democratic Left Alliance, CPB and Socialist Party of Bangladesh in a joint statement demanded punishment for all corrupt people irrespective of political identities.
Khaleda has been was convicted of corruption when many big scams involving billions of Taka and big fishes of ruling party are not being prosecuted. The government should take actions against all of them to prove that the verdict has got no political motivations, the statement said.
A perception emerged among people that the government’s will was reflected in the verdict because of over enthusiasm of the government to convict Khaleda without settling the issues of large scams, autocratic rule having no mandate, the statement added.
It said that corruption took place during BNP tenure, it was also continuing during this government’s tenure and people in ruling parties were
getting indemnity from prosecution, which was not acceptable.
Jukta Front, a combine of Bikalpa Dhara, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction and Nagorik Oikya, in a statement said that people’s doubt that Khaleda’s future legal steps like appeal and bail petition would be influenced by the government was getting stronger.
‘It would be complete violation of her [Khaleda] basic rights,’ the statement said.
Government will be responsible for any untoward situation that hampers upcoming election atmosphere, it added.
Workers Party of Bangladesh in a statement said that through the verdict Bangladesh was coming out from the culture of impunity. The verdict was exemplary. The party would support the process of making the country free from corruption.
The party also demanded punishment of people who attacked Bangladesh High Commission in London centring the verdict.