Khaleda Zia’s conviction

The earlier anticipations that there would be a spontaneous eruption of public discontent centering on Khaleda Zia’s conviction has by now dissipated. The post convictionscenario and taking her to prison caused no extraordinary outpouring of public grievances as was warned by some BNP party leaders or BNP oriented elements. The events came and passed surprisingly smoothly. Of course some diehard BNP party workers sought to stage short-lived and sporadic confrontations with the law enforces. But on the whole the law and order conditions– well after the sentence was read out to the BNP supreme leader– continues to be reasonable and hardly concern raising. So, one may not contend the Home Minister’s observation that the country remains generally peaceful in the wake of Khaleda Zia’s conviction.
It appears the people at large have tended to respond to the BNP leader’s conviction as it should be : simply as a matter of the court to be settled as per the requirements of the law. They were not pulsated into a rebellious or revolutionary mood over the issue or saw no great public interest associated to take a stand over the court’s judgement. On the other hand the Home Minister as well as the Law Minister’s observations that people in a democracy have the rights to ‘peacefully’ protest something they do not like also helped a calmer outcome. Police took selective and limited actions after the judgement was delivered designed to ensure that disturbance in public life could be restricted to the minimum. Such a posture on the part of the law enforcers was appreciated as they were seen as doing their job to keep normal public life and safety and security of people’s lives and properties.
It appears the international community, too, broadly supports the developments that have taken place in Bangladesh over the last couple of days. They were apprehensive about outbreak of large scale violence over the jailing of Khaleda Zia. According to news reports, the US State Department in its latest policy statements warned the BNP that they ought not to do anything that would be evident of the latter’s role in instigating serious decline in law and order conditions in Bangladesh. The statement mentioned about the rights of BNP supporters and others to express their opinion and exhibit their dissatisfaction but not at the cost of peace and stability of Bangladesh. Similar was the warning conveyed to BNP leaders by India and the European Union (EU). In sum, it appears the international community generally has taken a principled stand on the side of maintaining peace and stability in Bangladesh. The US, India and EU also suggested to BNP leaders that they should seek to redress their grievances through the courts and legal system and not by unleashing violence on the streets.
Needless to say, the BNP leadership would do well to heed such helpful advice. They also need to try and assess people’s actual feelings or passions over the issue. Another wrong calculation by them could put them into greater disillusionment in the eyes of the people. As it is, people generally have given a silent signal about what they think or feel by remaining greatly unmoved by the Court’s decision. People’s general apathy is clearly indicative that the imprisonment of Khaleda Zia is not considered by them as something central to their lives and well being ; their only motivation is no quarter should get an excuse to put Bangladesh on the path of another spell of strife and dissension with dangerous spill over effects on the economy by exploiting the situation of internment of Khaleda Zia.
Unemotionally looking at the sentencing of Khaleda Zia, it cannot be said that justice was not dispensed in her case. The case took nearly ten years to come to a close and this is example enough that the prosecution gave her and her legal teams an extraordinary length of time to carry out their legal defence. All opportunities for adequate defence were extended to her. Besides, this was not a court set up by an extra legal martial law authorities or the like. It was duly set up by an elected and constitutionally approved government. The sentencing by a lower court does not foreclose the way to her to appeal in a higher court, to seek bail and get it, plus carry out the legal battle while remaining a physically free person in the process. Practically, it could be a matter of days for Khaleda to approach the High Court and get out of the prison at Nazimuddin Road on bail. So, all that is needed on her part and that of her party is to keep patient . Under no circumstances their faces will be brighter to the people if they encourage another round of burning and pillaging which they executed for months in 2014 to press for their so called demands.