Dhaka special court has sentenced former prime minister and main opposition party BNP chief Khaleda Zia to a five-year jail term. The national capital Dhaka was thereafter put on alert. Khaleda Zia, 72, was charged with embezzling 21 million takas (USD 252,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust. She was immediately taken to jail and may well be disqualified from contesting elections due in December. Zia’s imprisonment clears the path for Hasina Sheikh whose stay in power is set to continue and may well expand further. Reports suggest that Zia’s party BNP is planning a nation-wide protest on Friday. Sheikh Hasina criticised Khaleda Zia and accused her of instigating violence from 2013 to 2015. Violence created by Zia’s centre-right party and Islamist allies in 2014 and 2015 saw over 200 people being killed. BNP General Secretary Fakhrul Islam said that the case was falsely made out against Zia and the party will not accept the court’s verdict.
Delhi is closely monitoring the situation and is aware of the radical Islamists’ pressures and the constant temptation of financial assistance from China. Elections in December can turn out to be a cakewalk for Hasina and her Awami league if Zia’s party BNP boycotts polls. Delhi has indicated that it is important the opposition participates in the democratic process and it has urged Hasina to engage in talks even as it leans in favour of the Awami league.
Dhaka saw some clashes between the opposition activists and security forces and almost 3,500 party workers have been arrested – the national capital has been on high alert for the past two days. Schools were closed on Thursday and according to AP over 5,000 policemen have been deployed on the streets. Transportation also suffered setback as most of the organisations declared day-long suspension of services.