Friday, January 18, 2019

BNP to continue ‘peaceful protests’ for party chief Khaleda’s release

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2018-02-12 17:37:21 BdST


The BNP says it will continue its ‘peaceful movement’ to put pressure on the government to release party chief Khaleda Zia from jail.

Khaleda, a three-time prime minister and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was jailed for five years after a Dhaka court found her guilty of misappropriating foreign funds donated to an orphanage trust.

The 72-year-old is now being kept at the old jailhouse on Nazim Uddin Road, which the authorities described as a ‘special prison’.

She is the lone inmate there as the authorities have transferred prisoners to a new facility in Keraniganj about two years ago.

Soon after Khaleda was convicted, the BNP announced a series of protests, as it viewed the court verdict as a politically motivated attempt to shut her out of elections.

“Despite all the odds, you have joined the protest, which clearly shows Khaleda Zia is the most popular leader of Bangladesh. She has been jailed on false charges,” Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a demonstration in Dhaka on Monday.

Amid a huge police buildup, thousands of BNP supporters streamed into a key road and linked hands to form a human chain from the National Press Club to Topkhana Road.

“Our peaceful protests will continue until the leader is released from jail,” Mirza Fakhrul told protesters, sending signals that the party would stay away from typical, often violent, shutdowns or road blockades.

Reiterating the demand for a neutral polls-time administration, he said: “We want a peaceful election, which will reflect the people’s mandate.”

Senior leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain condemned the treatment of Khaleda as a regular inmate in jail by the prison authorities.

“The government has breached the Jail Code. Our leader has been treated as an ordinary prisoner for four days,” said the member of the BNP’s National Standing Committee.

On Sunday, Inspector General of Prisons Syed Iftekhar Uddin said Khaleda was not accorded special privileges as the Jail Code has no specific instructions over a former prime minister.

However, she was granted the privileged status, referred to as Division in the Jail Code, later in the day following a court order.

At Monday’s demonstration, the party made it clear that they will not take part in the national election with the party chief confined to jail.

“We want to make it clear that we will beat all conspiracies and the election must be held and that too with Khaleda Zia,” said the party’s standing committee member Mirza Abbas.

Following protests on Friday and Saturday, the BNP announced three-day countrywide programmes.

The human chain was the first in the series of demonstrations. On Tuesday, supporters across the country will hold sit-in protests and a hunger strike the next day.

At a press conference at the party’s Naya Paltan headquarters after the demonstrations, Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said their programme in front of the National Press Club would continue from 11am to 12pm.

He later told that they changed the venue of the programme to the auditorium of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh at Ramna following police permission.

Rizvi condemned the detention of Vice-Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu following the peaceful protests.

He claimed the law enforcers have arrested 4,400 leaders and activists since Jan 30.