Jail for Khaleda Zia

Chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the chief opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia has been sentenced to a five-year jail term after she was found guilty of corruption by a Dhaka court. The charge against her was misappropriation of money which came as foreign aid to her Zia Orphanage Trust. On the face of it, it is all fair and above board. But since she is the main opponent of Bangladesh Price Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party and since general elections in Bangladesh are due this December, it is inevitable that Hasina’s critics will see in the imprisonment of Begum Khaleda as a subtle and clever move by Sheikh Hasina to eliminate her main rival from the electoral field. This line is likely to go down well with those who want to oust Hasina from power.
In the complicated political situation prevailing in Bangladesh, all anti-Hasina forces are trying to come together to defeat the Hasina Government in the elections. They include the BNP, the Jamaar-e-Islami, the pro-Pakistani elements and jihadi Islamist groups whose professed aim is to turn Bangladesh from being a secular country to an Islamic State. Time and again they have tried to overthrow the democratically elected Hasina Government, unsuccessfully though. Another big question that hangs in the air is, if Begum Khaleda prays for bail and bail is granted, whether she can contest the polls. These questions are already being debated fervently in political circles in Bangladesh.
It would be prudent for India to adopt a policy of befriending whosoever wins the polls and comes to power in Bangladesh. As far as India is concerned, Khaleda Zia will certainly not be a Sheikh Hasina but if the people of Bangladesh vote her into power, India will have to accept the reality and to try to work out its equations with Khaleda and the forces that support her. This may seem too farfetched now, as the political situation may change in the next few months and the extent of support now enjoyed by the two leaders may change. Both China and Pakistan are keenly watching the situation and it would be in the interest of both, to have a non-Awami League Government installed in power. India will have to tread cautiously. Begum Khaleda may have been sent to jail for corruption but she remains a powerful and influential politician, just as Lalu Prasad Yadav cannot be ignored just because he is serving a prison term for corruption.

Friday, 16 February, 2018