Govt cancels lease of Khaleda's Cantt house
The government yesterday cancelled the allotment of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's house on Shaheed Mainul Road in Dhaka Cantonment, 'due to a number of anomalies regarding the allotment within the military zone'.
The decision came at a meeting of the cabinet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair where cabinet members and secretaries of different ministries and divisions were present. Going through various documents regarding the allotment, the cabinet 'identified numerous anomalies'.
The irregularities are that Khaleda has been carrying out political activities from the cantonment house, which goes against a condition of the allotment. The cabinet also 'found out' that one cannot get allotment of two government houses in the capital, and a civilian cannot get a resident lease within a cantonment. The meeting also observed that unauthorised changes and extensions were made to the structure violating the code of conduct for a military area.
Khaleda, also the main opposition leader in the parliament, will lose the house in three months, according to the government decision. Former military dictator HM Ershad, who later became a president, allotted the house to Khaleda and her two sons after the assassination of her husband, former president Ziaur Rahman who used to live in that house as a marshal law administrator.
Highly placed sources in the government however said Khaleda's activities and remarks following the February 25 mutiny and massacre in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) headquarters are the main reasons behind the cancellation of the allotment.
The cancellation came a week after Hasina told the parliament that the 6 Shaheed Mainul Road house in Dhaka Cantonment was allotted to Khaleda violating Cantonment Board's rules, and her cabinet would decide about its fate.
"If Khaleda Zia returns the house, the government will construct apartment buildings on that 2.72 acre land, and will allot two apartments to each of the families of army officers killed in the BDR massacre," Hasina announced in the parliament.
The government already instructed Quarter Master General Lt Gen Jahangir Alam Chowdhury to take necessary measurers to evacuate the house, highly placed sources said.
"A person can't get two government houses in the capital. So the allotment was an illegal step and we are just removing the anomaly," Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury told The Daily Star after the meeting.
She said rules were flouted in various ways regarding the allotment of the house. "If anybody violates the rules of a lease contract, you can straight up cancel the lease. She violated a number of conditions and there are many reasons for cancelling the allotment," she added.
Responding to a query about BNP's claim that the 1981 cabinet under the Ershad regime approved the allotment, Matia, also an Awami League (AL) presidium member, said they have scrutinised all relevant documents from that time, but did not get any such proof.
Earlier, AL lawmaker and former law minister Abdul Matin Khasru in the parliament drew the premier's attention to the allotment of the house for 99 years to Khaleda under some conditions including restrictions on carrying out political activities from there.
But, Khaleda violated the condition as she has been carrying out political activities from that house, and the head office of Dandy Dyeing is also set up there, Khasru claimed.
The AL lawmaker asked whether the government would cancel the allotment on grounds of violation of the lease agreement.
In response to Khasru's questions, Hasina told the parliament that it is true that the cantonment authorities cannot allot the house to anyone, so the allotment is illegal.
Matia yesterday clarified that the 1981 cabinet also did not allot the 6 Shaheed Mainul Road house to Khaleda; rather it allotted a house to her on a 1.5 bigha land in Gulshan in 1982. Khaleda however did not stay in the Gulshan house on Road 196, Block 3. It has been rented out since the allotment.
Talking to The Daily Star, another senior minister, wishing anonymity, said the government is not happy over the role of Khaleda in the aftermath of the bloody BDR mutiny on February 25-26.
"Instead of helping to resolve the crisis, she rather tried to exacerbate the situation," alleged the minister.
Hasina herself accused the opposition in the parliament on Tuesday of attempting to plunge the country into chaos by making 'incendiary remarks' about the BDR bloodbath.
Asked whether the decision will exacerbate the political enmity between AL and BNP, the agriculture minister said, "If they abide by the law and the rules then it is not supposed to create any new enmity, as they are also citizens of the country and the law is equal for all."
The last AL government made a similar unsuccessful move to evict Khaleda from the cantonment residence.
The successive BNP-Jamaat coalition government however cancelled government allotment of two houses to Hasina and her sister, soon after coming to power. Besides, other facilities the last AL government allotted to the daughters of Bangabandhu were also cancelled by the BNP-Jamaat government.
In addition to yesterday's decision to cancel the house allotment for Khaleda, the cabinet also discussed the government policy on water body management and formed a six-member committee led by Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury for analysing and scrutinising the policy.
The other members of the committee are the ministers for land, fisheries, water resources, and social welfare affairs, and the state minister for foreign affairs.
Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting, Press Secretary to Prime Minister Abul Kalam Azad said the committee will place the draft policy to the next cabinet meeting, scheduled for Sunday.