The BNP will keep its course steady on the road to the next general election, with many leaders hoping that party chief Khaleda Zia, convicted in a graft case, will be able to contest the polls through a legal battle. The leaders expressed firm determination to take part in the election by realising the party's demand for an election-time neutral government and enabling Khaleda to join the polls. The leaders came up with the remarks a day after Khaleda Zia was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, saying that the party will go to polls to give a reply to the ‘misdeeds of the present government’.
The BNP leaders earlier accused the government of plotting to get Khaleda jailed to keep her out of the election process. BNP atanding committee member Lt Gen. (Retd) Mahbubur Rahman hoped that the matter would be settled in the higher court and Khaleda would be able to take part in the polls. “I think the matter will certainly be resolved in the court and she (Khaleda) will take part in the polls,” he said.
The former army chief said Khaleda’s lawyers would file an appeal before the High Court (HC) and seek her bail.
“There is still time… It's up to the court to allow her bail. We'll also make efforts in this regard,” he added.
Another standing committee member, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, declined to make any comment at this moment over participation of the party in the next polls.
The decision will be taken at the party’s highest forum, he said.
A vice-chairman, preferring anonymity, claimed that the government had committed a "historical mistake" by jailing Khaleda. It has to face the consequences, he added.
He also said the graft case against Khaleda had been filed to keep her out of the election process, but the BNP would take part in the
polls under any circumstances. The leader further said the BNP would not fall into the government’s trap and resort to violence as that is what the government wants.
“In case Khaleda is not released before the polls, we’ll move around carrying her picture. I can tell you, people will vote for the “sheaf of paddy”, the poll symbol of the BNP, and not for the “boat”, the election symbol of the Awami League,” he added.
BNP vice-chairman Maj. (Retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed said the BNP would take part in the next polls and Khaleda would also be able to take part in it. He termed the lower court verdict “political vengeance” of the government and hoped that the former premier would get a neutral verdict from the higher court.
The former minister, however, expressed doubts whether the election would be fair and neutral if Khaleda is kept in prison. “It’ll be risky to take part in the polls by keeping her (Khaeda) in prison,” he observed.
Another vice-chairman, Shamsuzzaman Dudu, said the BNP would take part in the election after realising its demand for a neutral government to conduct the polls. He also said the AL would face defeat for holding the so-called trial of Khaleda Zia.
The former student leader said false cases are filed by the ruling quarter when defeating the opponent in an election seems impossible. In this regard, Dudu mentioned the example of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
He further said that through the verdict the AL had stepped on the first stair of failure as it united the BNP rank and file further.
A special court on Thursday pronounced a five-year jail term for Khaleda in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.