Bangladesh court jails Opposition leader Khaleda Zia for 5yrsLast updated on Feb 08, 2018, 06:51 pm
Former Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia was today sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment in relation to a corruption case by a Bangladesh court. She is the country's main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party's (BNP), head.
Tarique Rahman, her son and political heir, and four others were sentenced to 10yrs.
Incidentally, this verdict becomes politically significant as it precedes December's general elections.
Who is Khaleda Zia?
Khaleda Zia was married to liberation war hero Ziaur Rahman, who was Bangladesh's President in 1977.
However, following his assassination in a failed coup in 1981, the shy housewife entered politics.
She became a powerful opposition force during the 1980s military regime and was jailed many times.
Later, in the 1991 "free and fair" elections, she became the country's first woman PM.
Now, what is the corruption case against Zia?
These corruption charges pertain to her second term as PM in 2001-2006. She faces over 30 cases.
The anti-corruption commission filed this particular case accusing Zia of misappropriating over 2.1cr Bangladeshi Taka (Rs. 1.6cr) that had come from foreign banks as grants for orphans.
The authorities accused her of setting up the Zia Charitable Trust just before the donations started flowing in.
What was the reaction to the case?
Zia claimed the case was politically motivated. BNP members were confident that the verdict will be overturned in higher courts.
Meanwhile, her supporters clashed with the police before the verdict was read out. They were forced to use tear gas to disperse them.
Reportedly, there was a state of curfew in the capital and many cities, with heightened security and a shutdown of schools/shops.
What will be the next possible steps for BNP?
Zia earlier refused to contest general elections in 2013. This allowed Awami League PM Shiekh Hasina to wrest power.
However, BNP planned to contest this year's election and capitalize on Hasina's growing unpopularity.
But, with its main leader in jail, it now appears unlikely.
If Zia's No. 2 man, gentle and well-educated Mirza Alamgir decides to contest, it will allow BNP to re-invent itself.
And, what does this mean for Bangladesh politics?
South Asian politics is dominated by dynastic loyalties. This usually leads to a dilution of democratic processes and non-development.
Bangladesh is a classic example, where Zia and Hasina have controlled politics since the 80s.
Now, with Zia out of the way, Hasina will grow more powerful.
BNP's absence will affect its influence across the country and weaken its ideological ally Jamiat-i-Islami.