Freed in one case, arrested in another
Tangled in 37 cases, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has not been able to walk out of jail in the last six months. If she gets bail in one case, she is arrested in another.
Khaleda was imprisoned on February 8 following conviction in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. Many BNP leaders' initial optimism about her release waned as she could not get out of jail despite winning a hard-fought legal battle for bail at the Supreme Court in May.
She had to start fighting other battles for bail in other cases. She is yet to get bail in a murder case in Comilla, two arson cases in Khulna and Narail and defamation case in Dhaka.
“The lower court is influenced by the ruling party. She got bail in the case in which she was convicted. We have to move to the higher court with every case which takes time. From the way we are now moving, we expect she will be freed soon,” Khaleda's lawyer Zainul Abedin told The Daily Star.
Concerns over Khaleda's health became a major issue in the country's political scenario after she went to prison.
After visiting her in prison in June, her physicians said she had suffered a mild stroke and needed immediate treatment at the United Hospital.
Several ministers, however, said her blood pressure had dropped and suggested she take treatment at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University. Khaleda rejected the suggestion.
“She fell ill after going to jail. Her personal physicians recommended better treatment, but the government didn't care. It is inhuman,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
BNP leaders have said their party would not participate in the coming parliamentary election if Khaleda is not released.
Khaleda had gone to jail on multiple occasions in the past. But this is the first time she has been behind bars for such a long time. She had been under house arrest pending trials in buildings used as makeshift jails called sub-jails in 2008.
The 72-year-old former prime minister is the second former head of government to end up in prison on corruption charges. Former dictator HM Ershad also went to jail for corruption.
Before going to jail, she repeatedly asked her party men to stay united ignoring the rifts. There were apprehensions in the party of splits.
In her absence, BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman became the acting chairman and coordinated the party's activities from London.
The senior leaders frequently hold meetings at Khaleda's Gulshan office and then the decisions are conveyed to Tarique Rahman for endorsement, said party insiders.
“Party leaders are now more organized and the tie [among them] is stronger than ever,” Fakhrul said.
Rather than enforcing any strike or hartal, the BNP has observed token hunger strike, rally, and submission of memorandums to the deputy commissioners across the country.
Party insiders said they will hold tougher programmes demanding Khaleda's release after the Eid-ul-Adha.
Party leaders and her relatives said the former premier has been spending her days in jail reading books, newspapers and offering prayers.
Her residence “Firoza” is guarded only by her personal security personnel and her relatives sometimes come to the house.