The BNP chief and her family, as well as the party leaders, want her to be treated at the United Hospital in Dhaka
Since the jail code of Bangladesh – formulated during the British rule and not yet updated – does not specify if a prisoner's preferences regarding medical treatment should be taken into consideration, how BNP chief Khaleda Zia should receive her treatment now depends on the government.
Khaleda, who has been at the old Dhaka Central Jail since February 8 after she was convicted in a corruption case, suffered a mild stroke on June 5, according to her personal physicians.
The former premier and her family, along with the BNP leaders, want to her to be treated at the United Hospital in Dhaka - a private hospital - but the jail authorities do not seem keen on the idea.
“Since the jail code does not allow the authority to send Khaleda Zia to a private hospital spending public money, we will take her to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) with her consent,” Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin, inspector general of prisons (IG-Prisons), told reporters recently.
According to the existing jail code, subject to the control of the superintendent and general control of the IG-Prisons, the medial officer of a prison will have the charge of sanitary administration of the prison. His or her duties will include every matter affecting the health of the prisoners and the general hygiene in the prison.
The medical officer will also, from time to time, change the general diet and may order special diet for the sick, aged and infants. The medical officer will daily visit the patients in the hospital and examine prisoners complaining of illness and admit them, if necessary, to hospital, the code further states.
When contacted, former deputy inspector general of prisons (DIG-Prisons) Maj Shamsul Haider Siddique said: “Usually the jail doctor takes care of sick prisoners. If proper treatment is not possible in jail, then patients are sent to government hospital outside of the prison. And if the government hospitals lack the necessary facilities, then the patients can be sent to private hospitals with government approval.
“Since our jail code does not address all aspects of a prisoner's treatment – i.e. how to administer the treatment during imprisonment – it requires government approval for the jail authorities to allow prisoners in private hospitals instead of the government ones,” he added.
The former DIG-prisons, who served during the last caretaker government regime, said after 1/11, the then Awami League President Sheikh Hasina and general secretary Abdul Jalil, who were in prison, were allowed to get treatment at Square Hospital and Lab Aid Hospital, respectively.
“Sheikh Hasina later went abroad for better treatment since the government allowed her,” he added.
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Meanwhile, BNP leaders have voiced suspicion over the government’s alleged ignorance in providing intensive treatment for their 73-year-old party chairperson.
They also asked why the BNP chairperson should not be permitted to be treated at the United Hospital when the Awami League chief had been allowed treatment at the Square Hospital during the caretaker government regime.
BNP senior leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said: “The IG-Prisons said there was no provision in the jail code following which the BNP chairperson can be taken to a private hospital. In this case, they need approval from the government. Besides, the expense of her treatment is also a concern. His statement has clearly explained why the jail authority did not take Khaleda to the United Hospital, even when her physicians repeatedly urged them to take her there.”
He also asked why the IG-Prisons did not inform Khaleda's family members when she fell unconscious, and take immediate steps to find out the reason behind her sudden illness.
Requesting anonymity, a senior official of Bangladesh Jail said whatever happened during the caretaker government's time, it was the decision of the government at that time.
“We cannot permit any patient go to a private hospital unless the government allows it. We will act according to the government decision,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.