Khaleda Zia

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The ability to stand up against governmental oppression, to boycott elections, to refuse offices of profit, or to suffer imprisonment are considered evidence of personal sacrifices something which is greatly admired by the people of a country where politics is generally an unabashed pursuit of power and personal aggrandizement. From the moment Khaleda was installed as the leader of the BNP, she has publicly remained opposed to participation in any election held while Ershad was in power. Her popularity soared after she boycotted the polls in 1986. [30]

Later in that year, on the eve of 1986 Bangladeshi presidential election, Khaleda Zia was put under house arrest once again. [35]

Fall of Ershad

Khaleda Zia was put under house arrest multiple times from 1986 to 1990 by Ershad's military government.

On 13 October 1986, she was put under house arrest right before the 1986 Bangladeshi presidential election and was released only after the election. She took the lead on her release and initiated a fresh movement with a view to deposing Ershad. She called a half-day strike on 10 November of the same year only to be put under house arrest again. [36]

On 24 January 1987, when Sheikh Hasina joined the parliament session with other Awami League leaders, Khaleda Zia was on the street demanding the dissolution of the parliament. She called for a mass rally in Dhaka which turned violent and top leaders of BNP were arrested. After that, a series of strikes were organized by 7 party alliance led by Khaleda Zia from February to July 1987. On 22 October of the year, Khaleda Zia's BNP in collaboration with Sheikh Hasina's Awami League declared "Dhaka Seize" programme on 10 November to overthrow Ershad. [37]

As a countermeasure, Ershad's government rounded up thousands of political leaders and activists, but on the day of seizing there were complete chaos on the streets and dozens died. The government of Ershad put Khaleda Zia under house arrest after detaining her from Purbani Hotel, from where she was coordinating the movement. On 11 December 1987, Khaleda was set free but she immediately held a press conference and claimed that she was "prepared to die" to depose the dictator. [38]

Begum Khaleda Zia waving hand to the crowd after the fall of Ershad Khaleda Zia waving hand in a 1990 rally after the fall of Ershad.png
Begum Khaleda Zia waving hand to the crowd after the fall of Ershad

After the eventful 1987, two following years went relatively calm with sporadic violence. A fresh wave of movements started when BNP's student wing Chatra Dal started winning most of the student union elections across the country. By 1990, Chatra Dal took control of 270 out of 321 student unions of the country, riding on the popularity of Khaleda Zia. They also won all the posts of Dhaka University Central Students' Union in 1990. [30] The new committee of DUCSU led by Amanullah Aman declared fresh programmes to overthrow Ershad in line with BNP's programmes. On 10 October of 1990, in a violent turn of events Chatra Dal leader Naziruddin Jehad died on the street of Dhaka that paved the way for a greater alliance between all the opposition forces. [39]

After two-month-long protests, BNP led by Begum Khaleda Zia, along with other political parties, compelled Ershad to offer his resignation on 4 December 1990.

Premiership

First term

Zia with US President Bill Clinton at the White House. Khaleda Clinton.JPG
Zia with US President Bill Clinton at the White House.

A neutral caretaker government in Bangladesh oversaw elections on 27 February 1991 [40] following eight years of Ershad presidency. BNP won 140 seats - 11 short of simple majority. [40] [41] Zia was sworn in as the country's first female prime minister on 20 March 1991 with the support of a majority of the deputies in parliament. With a unanimous vote, the parliament passed the 12th amendment to the constitution in August 1991. The acting president Shahabuddin Ahmed granted Zia nearly all of the powers that were vested in the president at the time, effectively returning Bangladesh to a parliamentary system in September.

Zia's administration abolished the Upazila system in November 1991. It formed the Local Government Structure Review Commission, which recommended a two-tier system of local government, district and union councils. Also the Thana Development and Coordination Committee was formed to coordinate development activities at the thana level. [42]

Second term

When the opposition boycotted the 15 February 1996 election, Zia's party BNP had a landslide victory in the 6th Jatiya Sangshad. [43] Other major parties demanded a neutral caretaker government to be appointed to oversee the elections. The short-lived parliament hastily introduced the caretaker government by passing the 13th amendment to the constitution. The parliament was dissolved to pave the way for parliamentary elections within 90 days.

In the 12 June 1996 elections, BNP lost to Sheikh Hasina's Awami League. Winning 116 seats, [43] BNP emerged as the largest opposition party in the country's parliamentary history.

Third term

Zia with the President of Brazil Lula da Silva (2004) LulaZia.jpg
Zia with the President of Brazil Lula da Silva (2004)
Zia with the Indian Leader of Opposition L. K. Advani in New Delhi (2006) The Leader of Opposition Shri L.K. Advani calls on the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Ms Khaleda Zia, in New Delhi on March 22, 2006.jpg
Zia with the Indian Leader of Opposition L. K. Advani in New Delhi (2006)

The BNP formed a four-party alliance [44] on 6 January 1999 to increase its chances to return to power in the next general elections. These included its former political foe the Jatiya Party, founded by President Ershad after he led a military government, and the Islamic parties of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and the Islami Oikya Jot. It encouraged protests against the ruling Awami League.[ citation needed ]

Many residents[ according to whom? ] strongly criticized Zia and BNP for allying with Jamaat-e-Islami, [45] which had opposed the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. The four-party alliance participated in the 1 October 2001 general elections, winning two-thirds of the seats in parliament and 46% of the vote (compared to the principal opposition party's 40%). Zia was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.[ citation needed ]

She worked on a 100-day programme to fulfill most of her election pledges to the nation. During this term, the share of domestic resources in economic development efforts grew. Bangladesh began to attract a higher level of international investment for development of the country's infrastructure, energy resources and businesses, including from the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. Restoration of law and order was an achievement during the period.[ citation needed ]

Zia promoted neighbourly relations in her foreign policy. In her "look-east policy," she worked to bolster regional cooperation in South Asia and adherence to the UN Charter of Human Rights. She negotiated settlement of international disputes, and renounced the use of force in international relations. Bangladesh began to participate in United Nations international peacekeeping efforts. In 2006, Forbes magazine featured her administration in a major story praising her achievements. Her government worked to educate young girls (nearly 70% of Bangladeshi women were illiterate) and distribute food to the poor (half of Bangladesh's 135 million people live below the poverty line). Her government promoted strong GDP growth (5%) based on economic reforms and support of an entrepreneurial culture.[ citation needed ]

When Zia became prime minister for the third time, the GDP growth rate of Bangladesh remained above 6 percent. The Bangladesh per capita national income rose to 482 dollars. Foreign exchange reserve of Bangladesh had crossed 3 billion dollars from the previous 1 billion dollars. The foreign direct investments of Bangladesh had risen to 2.5 billion dollars. The industrial sector of the GDP had exceeded 17 percent at the end of Zia's office. [3]

On 29 October 2006, Zia's term in office ended. In accordance with the constitution, a caretaker government would manage in the 90-day interim before general elections. On the eve of the last day, rioting broke out on the streets of central Dhaka due to uncertainty over who would become Chief Advisor (head of the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh). Under the constitution, the immediate past Chief Justice was to be appointed. But, Chief Justice Khondokar Mahmud Hasan (K M Hasan) declined the position. [46] [47] [48] [49] President Iajuddin Ahmed, as provided for in the constitution, assumed power as Chief Advisor on 29 October 2006. [50] He tried to arrange elections and bring all political parties to the table during months of violence; 40 people were killed and hundreds injured in the first month after the government's resignation in November 2006.

Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, the presidential advisor, met with Zia and Sheikh Hasina, and other political parties to try to resolve issues and schedule elections. Negotiations continued against a backdrop of political bickering, protests and polarisation that threatened the economy. [51] [52] Officially on 26 December 2006, all political parties joined the planned 22 January 2007 elections. The Awami League pulled out at the last minute, and in January the military intervened to back the caretaker government for a longer interim period. It held power until holding general elections in December 2008.

Foreign policy

Talks in China related to trade and prospective Chinese investment in Bangladesh, [55] particularly the issue of financing Padma Bridge. At the beginning of 2012, the World Bank, a major prospective financier, had withdrawn, accusing government ministers of graft. [54] [56] The BNP announced that the Chinese funding for a second Padma Bridge was confirmed during her visit. [57] [58]

Zia's India visit was considered notable as BNP had been considered to have been anti-India compared to its rival Awami League. [60] At her meeting with Prime Minister Singh, Zia said her party wanted to work with India for mutual benefit, including the fight against extremism. [61] Indian officials announced they had come to agreement with her to pursue a common geopolitical doctrine in the greater region to discourage terrorists. [62]

Post-premiership (since 2007)

Detention during the caretaker government

Former Bangladesh Bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed became the Chief Adviser to the interim caretaker government on 12 January 2007. In March, Zia's eldest son, Tarique Rahman, was arrested for corruption. Enforcing the suppression of political activity under the state of emergency, from 9 April, the government barred politicians from visiting Zia's residence. [63] Her other son, Arafat Rahman (Coco), was arrested for corruption on 16 April. [7] On 17 April, The Daily Star reported that Zia had agreed to go into exile with Arafat. [64] Her family said, the Saudi Arabian government reportedly declined to allow her into the kingdom - apparently because "it was reluctant to take in an unwilling guest". [65] Based on an appeal, on 22 April the High Court issued a ruling for the government to explain that she was not confined to her house. On 25 April, the government lifted restrictions on both Zia and Sheikh Hasina. [65] On 7 May, the High Court ordered the government to explain continuing restrictions on Zia. [66]

On 17 July, the Anti Corruption Commission Bangladesh (ACC) sent notices to both Zia and Hasina, requesting that details of their assets be submitted to the commission within one week. [67] Zia was asked to appear in court on 27 September in connection with a case for not submitting service returns for Daily Dinkal Publications Limited for years. [68] On 2 September, the government filed charges of corruption against Zia related to the awarding of contracts to Global Agro Trade Company in 2003. [8] She was arrested on 3 September. [69] [9] She was detained in a makeshift prison on the parliament building premises. [70] On the same day, Zia expelled her party Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and Joint Secretary General Whip Ashraf Hossain for breaching party discipline. [71]

BNP standing committee members chose former Minister of Finance Saifur Rahman and former Minister of Water Resources Hafizuddin Ahmed to lead the party. Bangladesh Election Commission subsequently invited Hafizuddin's faction, rather than Zia's, to participate in talks, effectively recognizing the former as the legitimate BNP. Zia challenged this in court, but her appeal was rejected on 10 April 2008. [72]

Zia was released on bail on 11 September 2008 from her yearlong detention. [73]

In December 2008, the caretaker government organized general elections where Zia's party lost to the Awami League and its Grand Alliance (with 13 smaller parties) which took a two-thirds majority of seats in the parliament. Sheikh Hasina became the prime minister, and her party formed government in early 2009. Zia became the opposition leader of the parliament.[ citation needed ]

Eviction from the cantonment house

Zia's family had been living for 38 years in the 2.72-acre plot house at 6 Shaheed Mainul Road house in Dhaka Cantonment. [74] It was the official residence of her husband, Ziaur Rahman, when he was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) of the Bangladesh Army. [75] After he became the President of Bangladesh, he kept the house as his residence. Following his assassination in 1981, the acting President Abdus Sattar, leased the house "for life" to Zia, for a nominal 101. When the army took over the government in 1983, Hussain Mohammad Ershad confirmed this arrangement.

On 20 April 2009, the Directorate of Military Lands and Cantonments handed a notice asking Zia to vacate the cantonment residence. [76] [77] Several allegations and irregularities mentioned in the notice - first, Zia had been carrying out political activities from the house – which went against a condition of the allotment; second, one cannot get allotment of two government houses in the capital; third, a civilian cannot get a resident lease within a cantonment. [77] Zia vacated the house on 13 November 2010. [78] She then moved to the residence of her brother, Sayeed Iskandar, at the Gulshan neighborhood. [79]

British Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham meeting Zia (2011) Khaleda Zia former Prime Minister of Bangladesh (5732764967).jpg
British Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham meeting Zia (2011)

Boycotting 2014 election

Zia's party took a stance on not participating in the 2014 Bangladeshi general election unless it was administered under a nonpartisan caretaker government, but the then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the demand. [80] [81] The Bangladesh Awami League, led by Hasina, won the election in 232 seats (out of 300). [82] The official counts from Dhaka suggested that the turnout here averaged about 22 percent. [83]

In 2016, BNP announced its new National Standing Committee, in which Zia retained her position as the chairperson. [84] [85] [86]

US Secretary John Kerry greets Zia at the US Embassy Dhaka (2016) Secretary Kerry Greets Begum Khaleda Zia at the U.S. Embassy Dhaka (28695344064).jpg
US Secretary John Kerry greets Zia at the US Embassy Dhaka (2016)

In 2017, the police conducted a raid on Zia's house search for "anti-state" documents. [87]

Charges and imprisonment in 2018

On 3 July 2008, during the 2007–08 caretaker government rule, ACC had filed a graft case, accusing Zia and five others of misappropriating over Tk 2.1 crore that had come from a foreign bank as grants for orphans. [88] According to the case, on 9 June 1991, $1.255M (Tk 4.45 crore) grant was transferred from United Saudi Commercial Bank to Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund - a fund that was created by then Prime Minister Zia shortly before the transfer of the grant as part of the embezzlement scheme. [88] On 5 September 1993, she issued a Tk 2.33 crore cheque from the Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund to the Zia Orphanage Trust on the pretext of building an orphanage in Bogra. [88] By April 2006, the deposited amount grew to Tk 3.37 crore with accrued interest. In April, June and July 2006, some of the money was transferred to bank accounts of three other accused – Salimul, Mominur and Sharfuddin – through different transactions. [89] On 15 February 2007, Tk 2.10 crore was withdrawn through pay orders from two of the FDR accounts. [88] Zia was accused of misappropriating that money by transferring the amount from a public fund to a private one. [89]

On 8 February 2018, during the Awami League government rule, Zia was sentenced to prison for five years in that corruption case. [12] Mobile phone jammers were installed at Bakshibazar court premises ahead of the verdict. [90] Her party claimed that the verdict was politically biased. [91] Zia was sent to the Old Dhaka Central Jail after the verdict. [92] She was imprisoned as the sole inmate at the jail since all the inmates had been transferred to the newly built Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj in 2016. [93] [94] On 11 February 2018, Dhaka Special Judge's Court 5 directed the authorities of Dhaka Central Jail to provide first class division to Zia. [95] On 31 October 2018, the High Court raised her jail term to 10 years after ACC pleaded for a revision. [96]

On 30 October 2018, in another case, Zia Charitable Trust Graft Case , Zia was sentenced to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment. [97] Khaleda is also accused in other 32 cases including Gatco Graft Case, Niko Graft Case, Barapukuria Coalmine Graft Case, Darussalam Police Station Cases, Jatrabari Police Station Cases, Sedition Case, Bomb Attack on Shipping Minister Case, Khulna Arson Case, Comilla Arson Case, Celebrating Fake Birthday Case, Undermining National Flag Case and Loan Default Case. [98]

Zia's nomination papers to contest for Feni-1, Bogra-6 and Bogra-7 constituencies at the 2018 general election were rejected. [99] She was not able to contest because according to article 66 (2) (d) of the constitution, "a person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of parliament who has been, on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his/her release". [100] Her party lost that general election to Awami League. [101]

Zia was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for medical treatment on 1 April 2019. [13] The High Court and the Supreme Court rejected her bail plea on humanitarian grounds a total four times. [14] On 25 March 2020, she was released for six months, conditioned she would stay at her home in Gulshan and not leave the country. [14] The government issued this executive decision as per section 401 (1) of the Criminal Code of Procedure (CrPC). [14]

Contracted COVID-19

In April 2021, it was reported that a staff member in Khaleda Zia's home showed symptoms of and tested positive for COVID-19. After it was found that other staffers also contracted COVID-19, she took a test and was found to have contracted COVID-19 herself. Zia exhibited no symptoms of COVID-19 at the time. [102] After having a low fever for three days, her health was reported to have been improving on 18 April 2021, with her body temperature dropping. [103]

Birth date discrepancy

Zia claims 15 August as her birthday, which is a matter of controversy in Bangladesh politics. [104] [105] 15 August is the day many immediate family members of Zia's political rival, Sheikh Hasina, including her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were killed. As a result of the deaths, 15 August is officially declared National Mourning Day of Bangladesh. [104] [106] [107] None of Zia's government issued identification documents show her birthday on 15 August. [106] [108] Her matriculation examination certificate lists a birth date of 9 August 1945. Her marriage certificate lists 5 September 1945. Zia's passport indicates a birth date of 19 August 1945. [106] [108] Kader Siddiqui, a political ally of Zia, urged her not to celebrate her birthday on 15 August. [105] The High Court filed a petition against Zia on this issue. [109] [110]

Awards and honours

Eponyms

Deshnetri Begum Khaleda Zia Hall at the University of Chittagong. Deshnetri Begum Khaleda Zia Hall, CU (02).jpg
Deshnetri Begum Khaleda Zia Hall at the University of Chittagong.

Bibliography

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References

Footnotes

  1. In 1947, Dinajpur district was split into West Dinajpur District in India and Dinajpur District in the then East Bengal.

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Khaleda Zia
খালেদা জিয়া
Begum Zia Book-opening Ceremony, 1 Mar, 2010 cropped.jpg
Zia in 2010
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
In office
10 October 2001 29 October 2006