BNP leaders and activists are keen to see party Chairperson Khaleda Zia actively involved in politics again, but their desire is not likely to be met anytime soon.
The former prime minister, now out of jail for six months under a government order, remains inactive in politics mainly because of her illness. Besides, the BNP also fears repercussions from the government for any such move by her.
Khaleda was freed from jail on March 25 after the government had suspended her jail sentence in a corruption case for six months as per section 401 of Criminal Code of Procedure.
But the order did not make it clear whether she can do politics actively. Party leaders fear the government may send her back behind bars if she becomes active in politics.
The BNP chief did not even meet her party leaders since her release from jail, except for exchanging Eid greetings with some senior leaders at her Gulshan residence in the capital on August 1.
Several leaders said Khaleda’s absence in politics impacted negatively on the mental strength of the party men and that’s why she should be active in party affairs. They said the chairperson herself wants to be active in politics.
Party sources say Khaleda’s health is not good as she has been suffering from diabetics, arthritis, and some other health complications for years.
Speaking to The Daily Star last week, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, “Leaders and activists want Khaleda Zia to be active in politics. But her health does not permit her.”
He said neither the party nor the chairperson has made any decision in this regard.
Sources said Khaleda recently expressed her willingness to go to her Gulshan office once the Covid-19 situation is over.
While exchanging Eid greetings, the opposition leader discussed party affairs with several BNP standing committee members. The leaders said Khaleda herself should make all the party decisions as she is now out of jail.
Although no one within the party differed publicly with BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman on different issues, many leaders say they are more comfortable with working under Khaleda’s leadership. Tarique is now staying in the UK.
“Khaleda Zia had been in the dark regarding most of the party activities for more than two years when she was behind bars. She can give us directives now even if she cannot actively take part in politics,” a senior BNP leader said wishing not to be named.
BNP vice-chairman Mohammad Shahjahan said, “Khaleda Zia is an icon of unity and a symbol of the nationalist force. There is no alternative to her leadership. She has dedicated her whole life to politics. She is not active in politics now due to her illness, but she will surely take part in politics after recovery.”
Khaleda walked out of jail at a time when the world has been hit by Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the prevailing epidemic situation, she did not even visit any hospital for treatment. However, doctors visited her at home regularly and gave treatment.
Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu, organising secretary of BNP, said the party chairperson’s good health is their first priority. “Khaleda Zia is the symbol of our strength. We hope she will recover soon and will join active politics.”
The government through an executive order freed the BNP chief from jail on March 25 for six months on conditions that she would stay at her home and not leave the country.
Khaleda landed in jail on February 8, 2017 after being sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a special court in Dhaka in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
On October 30 the following year, the High Court enhanced her punishment to 10 years after dismissing her appeal in the case.
The former premier was convicted by another special court in Dhaka in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case on October 29, 2018. She was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment by the court.