BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has sought an answer from ruling party leaders about their reason behind being so compassionate about Khaleda Zia’s return to active politics.
“The government is playing a ‘game’ on the issue of the BNP chairperson. The purpose behind the recent debate between Awami League leaders on Khaleda’s return to politics is not good,” he said at a meeting event in Dhaka.
Fakhrul also expressed concerns over Khaleda’s health as she visited Evercare Hospital on Monday afternoon for a routine check-up. She is suffering from arthritis, diabetes, and complications in her kidney, heart, lungs and eyes. She caught liver cirrhosis last year.
“Some of their (Awami League) leaders said Khaledia is not allowed to return to politics while another said there is nothing barring her return. What is the reason behind the discussion? Why is the Awali League suddenly so empathetic about Khaleda’s return to politics?” he asked.
“The intention behind the compassion is bad, very bad, they (ruling party leaders) want to confuse people, distracting their attention from the upcoming parliamentary election,” he said.
Fakhrul said his party is firm in its demands, seeking the voting rights of the party and the people and the resignations of the current government and the parliament.
Khaleda was sent to jail after being sentenced to five years in prison in February 2018 in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. The High Court raised the prison term to 10 years on Oct 10 that year. The trial court also sentenced her to seven years in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case.
The 77-year-old former prime minister was released in March 2020 on suspended sentences due to health concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. The government extended the suspension of the sentence several times. Khaleda was hospitalised several times for treatment of various diseases, but the government rejected her family’s pleas to allow her to travel abroad for advanced medical care. Khaleda has been living in her Gulshan residence since her release from jail. She has not visited her office near her home since her release from prison. The BNP chairperson also refrained from issuing formal statements during this period. The party did not state any reason behind her silence in politics.
The ongoing debate over the possibility of Khaleda resuming political activities ahead of the coming general election started after Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader spoke about the matter during his visit to the Amar Ekushey Book Fair.
Quader said Khaleda could not contest the election because of her conviction.
Speaking to reporters at the ruling party’s office on Thursday, Quader suggested Khaleda resuming political activities might indicate she was not ill.
“She was released on humanitarian grounds because she was ill. Where would she be if she was not ill? In jail.”
But his colleague, Law Minister Anisul Huq, had a different take.
The executive order on the suspended prison sentences of Khaleda Zia in graft cases does not have any condition barring her from politics, Huq said.
The law minister said he believed the BNP chairperson’s health condition may not allow her to return to active politics.
“She [Khaleda Zia] will continue receiving medical treatment at her home in Dhaka, and she will not be allowed to travel abroad – there’s no other condition,” the minister told reporters at an event in Dhaka on Thursday.
Replying to the discussion between the ruling party leaders, Fakhrul said, “Khaleda will return to politics at the right moment. She would practise politics no matter where she would be. In jail or elsewhere.”
He urged ruling party leaders to stop talking about it and demanded the unconditional release of the BNP chairperson from jail.