BNP leaders believe party chief Khaleda Zia will be acquitted in two high profile corruption cases filed against her provided the court “is not influenced politically”.
The leaders say any government plan to press for the punishment of Khaleda in the Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust corruption cases would be certain to “backfire”.
Although BNP policymakers say they are not worried over the party chief being convicted, the party is expected to discuss the matter in its next standing committee meeting.
BNP Standing Committee senior member Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said: “If justice is served, I personally believe that the court will not be able to punish her (Khaleda). The fund for the orphans was not embezzled.”
Another standing committee member, barrister Jamiruddin Sircar, said he had reviewed the case documents and believed both would fail. “I don’t see any reason why she (Khaleda) would be convicted,” he said.
However, ten top BNP leaders who spoke on the matter said the party’s lawyers were chalking out legal strategies in case the party chief was found guilty.
Some of them said the basis of the cases was so weak that convicting the former prime minister would create a negative impression among the people, which would have a big impact on the next election.
The former law minister pointed out that the witnesses gave different versions, adding that Khaleda did not sign any bank cheques and that she was “neither a member of the trustee board or had any association with the trust”.
The Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust cases were filed by the ACC during the caretaker government. Khaleda and several others, including her son Tarique Rahman, have been charged with embezzling Tk2.1 crore from Zia Orphanage Trust and Tk3.15 crore from the charitable trust.
Three other corruption cases stemming from the BNP chief’s time as prime minister are among the total of 37 cases being heard against her. The rest of the cases were filed over arson, murder, libel and sedition.
Even if she is convicted, BNP leaders said the party chief would be eligible for contesting the polls once she gets bail.
“She can get bail if she appeals (and) she can contest polls once she gets bail,” former speaker Jamiruddin explained. “The appeals court will give the final verdict.”
The party is also preparing to face down any verdict against Khaleda politically. Policymakers say if Khaleda is convicted, the standing committee, vice chairman, advisors, intellectuals and senior leaders would chalk out plans.
“The current prime minister had three cases against her with evidence, but against our leader, there is no evidence,” Khandker Mosharraf said. “So, we will face the matter legally and politically (and) we will move the High Court if she is punished.”
BNP Vice-Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu was adamant that any conviction of the party chief would not affect the BNP. “It will affect the Awami League; they will face a huge loss. They are not facing Khaleda Zia politically, rather they are facing her by filing cases against her,” he said.
BNP’s Organizing Secretary Shama Obaid said Khaleda Zia is the leader of a popular political party. “Sending her to jail in a false case is an ominous sign for Bangladesh’s future,” he said.
Political analyst Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury also said that the BNP chief would walk free if the court works independently, but warned it will be a different story “if the order [to convict] comes from somewhere else”.
Asked what Khaleda should do, he said, the BNP chairperson should tour the country to organize the party. “The future should be planned after talks with the party’s leaders and activists,” he said.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune