BNP chief Khaleda Zia has been serving five-year jail term in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. She had been convicted by a special court on February 8. Her elder son and also the Senior Vice-Chairman of the party, Tarique Rahman, had also been awarded ten years of imprisonment in the same case. Prosecutors sought maximum punishment for Khaleda Zia in the case. However, the court thought that awarding her life sentence would not be appropriate considering her age, social status and the amount of the misappropriated money.
Following the conviction of Khaleda, her lawyers tried several times to secure bail for her. Although the High Court granted her a four-month bail, the Supreme Court stayed the HC order till May 8. In such circumstances, the BNP has hired renowned British lawyer Lord Carlile as her legal adviser. But, she apparently has no way to get out of jail within a short time.
According to Media reports, several numbers of other cases have also been filed against her and arrest warrants had been issued against her in some of the cases. She should surrender before the court and secure bails in those cases. But, her lawyers did not take any appropriate initiative in this regard, causing more sufferings to the BNP chief.
However, her lawyers claimed that they did not advise her to surrender before any trial court as part of their plannings and also alleged that she had been kept in jail out of political vengeance, not for the fault of her counsels.
But, the media reports said the counsels of the former prime minister made some grave mistakes while dealing with Zia Orphanage Trust Graft case.
The case documents showed that charge framed against Khaleda Zia in the case on March 19, 2014. And as per the Code of Criminal Procedure, an accused can get discharged during charge framing. She should have appealed for her acquittal but her lawyers did not follow the procedure.
Besides, her lawyers claimed that there was no fund named Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund and the amir of Kuwait in 1991 had sent the money for forming Zia Orphanage Trust. The counsels presented the photocopy of a certificate of the Kuwait Embassy to the court as a proof on November 3, 2016. But, the certificate did not contain any signature or designation of the sender. It also did not have any registration number and the amount of donation was also not mentioned there. So, the court declared it as a fake document.
Another grave mistake was in the written statement defending herself which was submitted to the court on November 9, 2017. In the statement, she admitted that: "I have misused my power." and later signed it.
The statement was made by her lawyers and the question is: Why did they make her sign the statement without complete revision? Which indicates that the lawyers must have neglected their duties or overlooked the matter due to an internal feud.
Only the counsel panel of the BNP chief can come up with the right answer in this regard. And, I cannot understand why haven't they explain it yet?
Supreme Court lawyer Mahbubur Rahman, in an interview, told the Daily Kalerkantho: "Khaleda's lawyers made a big mistake by not make her surrender before the court in connection with the cases in which the court issued arrest warrants against her. She will have to pay for it for a long time. She is already suffering, but what will happen to her lawyers for such mistakes?"
It is a thought-provoking matter that how did her lawyers, who are renowned and well reputed in their profession, fail to find out the loopholes in the laws? Instead of concentrating on their duties, they are even more active in fields!
Questions are also being raised on the role of former BNP law minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed. He is one of the best law experts of the country and he even failed to find out those loopholes in this case. Nobody knows what went wrong with him! Observing the situation, one must think: Whether her lawyers wanted her to stay in jail!
Observing all aspects of the case, it is not hard to calculate that Khaleda's release from the jail will take a long time. Political and legal experts even forecasted that her chances of walking out of jail before the next general elections are almost impossible. Her release from the jail now became uncertain and it has also been estimated that she would face more challenges with the other cases filed against her.
So, I must say the condition has already been created to keep her away from the elections. In her absence, her son Tarique could take the helm but he is also a fugitive convict.
The government has announced that it has started the procedure to deport him from England. After his deportation, he will also land in the jail. So, this is the high time for BNP to think about a new leadership.
The reality is the party has managed to gain the support from uncounted people of the country and no other major party can replace BNP right now. The party still remains as the main opposition party of the country as the main opposition in the parliament Jatiya Party is comparatively weak in terms of the number of supporters and activists. And it is clear that the Awami League will get most of the seats if BNP boycotts the upcoming polls.
Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, who is widely known as an autocratic ruler, often is seen saying that his party will contest for all the seats in the next parliamentary polls. BNP's absence will not make any differences. But, he never mentioned that whether the polls will be accepted to the international community if BNP boycotts it.
We must recollect the memory of the general election in 2014 in which 153 lawmakers were elected uncontested. They are again taking preparation to get elected as lawmakers. So, whether BNP will allow them to take the advantage!
BNP is now a popular party no matter how it was formed. The party now becomes the property of mass people and it cannot be run in whims of any single individual. The party has no other choices to join the polls otherwise it will meet the same fate the Muslim League did. BNP must stay strong and face the challenges with patience. No political party gathered strength without any struggle.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the ultimate example in this regard. He faced uncounted challenges and struggled throughout his life for the cause of Awami League and Bangladesh. He addressed all problems with a strong hand and now his party is the strongest one.
India can also be a good example, the most powerful party, Congress, is now going through the same crises. But, it is trying to face the challenges with firm determination. BNP can follow their path in cementing their position.
Journalist and writer