Khaleda going to UK soon?

Government, BNP reportedly reached an 'understanding'

The political circle is suddenly abuzz with one discussion that prison days of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia are likely to be over in a couple of weeks.

Key leaders in the BNP and the ruling Awami League are talking in private that the ailing 74-year-old would be released on parole and allowed to go abroad for “treatment” following an “understanding” between the beleaguered party and the government.

As per the “understanding”, Khaleda, who has been in jail for over 14 months on corruption charges, might catch a London flight any day before April 30, the last day for oath-taking as MPs by six BNP leaders, who got elected in the December 30 general elections, said insiders.

“Six in, one out,” a top BNP leader, wishing anonymity, told The Daily Star yesterday.

According to the leader, Khaleda will go abroad and the six elected BNP leaders will join parliament after swearing-in.

“Her flight to London is either on April 25 or 26. And the MPs-elect [from the BNP] may take oath any day after her departure,” confided another party leader.

April 29 is the deadline for the six MPs-elect to be sworn in.

But when approached by this newspaper, came the formal response that nothing such happened.

“These are all baseless and gossips. I do not know anything about parole,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the party and one of the MPs-elect, told The Daily Star yesterday afternoon.

"We didn't have any conversation with her [Khaleda] over parole as it's not an issue of our party.”

The former premier landed in Jail on February 8 last year after a court awarded her a five-year jail term in the Zia Orphanage Trust case. She could not come out as she failed to secure bail in all 34 cases filed against her.

Khaleda is currently under treatment at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University hospital. She has recently been shifted there from the now-defunct central jail in Old Dhaka.

Seeking anonymity, a senior BNP leader told this correspondent that a party high-up recently met an adviser of the government to discuss Khaleda's release on parole and treatment abroad.

Negotiations on the issue are going on between BNP leaders and the government behind the scene. The government might agree to release Khaleda on parole only if the six BNP lawmakers-elect join parliament, mentioned the party leader.

Talking to The Daily Star last night, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government can release any accused or a convicted person on parole if the person applies following the procedures.

“If anybody wants to get released on parole, he or she has to submit an application to the home ministry. The ministry will then decide on it,” he pointed out.

This correspondent tried to contact Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan last night over his mobile phone for comments but couldn't reach him. 

On April 6, the minister said the government may consider Khaleda's release on parole for treatment if she applies for it.

Yesterday, Fakhrul said it is up to the party chief and her family to decide whether she would apply for parole or not.

Fakhrul, who along with two other party leaders, met Khaleda at the BSMMU on Sunday, said, “We did not have any conversations with her [Khaleda] about her parole as the issue is not related to the party.

He was talking to journalists after offering doa at the grave of party founder Ziaur Rahman.

The BNP secretary general further said they had discussed issues relating to the party chief's treatment and cases against her.

Asked whether there was any discussion with the chairperson about the swearing-in of the party's six MPs-elect, Fakhrul replied in the negative.

"We don't think the current parliament is an elected one. We also rejected the results of the so-called election."

Last night, the six BNP lawmakers-elect, including Fakhrul, had a meeting at the party chairperson's Gulshan office. But the topics of discussion could not be known.

Khaleda is suffering from severe pain in the joints of her hands and legs, insomnia and high blood sugar, according to her physicians.

In July 2017, she went to London and spent around a month with her elder son Tarique Rahman, and his wife and daughters.