The law ministry has recommended extending BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s stay out of prison by six months, amid conflicting opinions on whether the convicted party chief can engage in active politics.
The extension will become official as soon as the Ministry of Home Affairs approves the recommendation, Law Minister Anisul Huq said on Sunday.
“The ministry recommended extending the suspension of Khaleda Zia’s prison term based on her deteriorating health situation. The conditions of her release will remain the same,” he said.
The conditions are that the ailing BNP chief will continue receiving medical treatment at her Dhaka home and will not be allowed to travel abroad.
Four ministers recently differed on whether Khaleda could engage in active politics while an executive decree suspended her sentencing.
While Law Minister Anisul Huq and Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque believed Khaleda’s conditions for release did not restrict her from engaging in active politics and running her party, two of their cabinet colleagues, including the ruling party’s General Secretary Obaidul Quader, differed.
Quader and Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said the 77-year-old BNP chief’s return to active politics would breach her conditions to stay out of prison.
Amid the confusion, the law minister steered clear of the fraught subject on Sunday, saying the legality of Khaleda engaging in politics was irrelevant as his ministry made the recommendation based on her worsening health.
“The issue of her becoming active in politics is irrelevant here as Khaleda Zia is struggling with multiple health issues, and she was released from jail to get proper treatment,” he said.
Khaleda, a three-time prime minister, has been suffering from myriad physical ailments for years -- arthritis, diabetes and kidney and liver complications.
She was released from prison in March 2020 under the same conditions by executive order, and the government has extended the release six times by issuing new orders every six months since then.
A special trial court in Dhaka sentenced Khaleda to five years imprisonment in 2017 in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. After rejecting an appeal in the case, the High Court increased the jail time to 10 years.
The same trial court also sentenced her to seven years in prison in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case.