Harun-or-Rashid, vice chancellor of the National University, believes the verdict in a graft case that convicted BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia will have its impact on the next general elections.
He, however, says participatory elections will not be affected by this conviction. "Even if Khaleda Zia herself cannot compete in the polls, the BNP can. The BNP leadership is behaving responsibly," he said adding that the Awami League wants a participatory election in the country.
Harun-or-Rashid touched on the implications of the Khaleda verdict on elections and politics, in an interview with Prothom Alo. The text of the interview is given below:
Prothom Alo: What’s your reaction to Khaleda Zia’s verdict?
Harun-or-Rashid: No one is above the law. This verdict is a significant one. It conveys the message to political leaders that anyone can face the same fate. Those in power will be alert. After Ershad, Khaleda Zia is second among the top leaders who have been sent to jail for corruption.
Prothom Alo: Yet many during the present government’s regime are at large despite their corruption.
Harun-or-Rashid: Anyone committing crimes must be brought under the law irrespective of their party or views. Tangail’s member of parliament Amanur Rahman, a ruling party member, is in jail now. A case against former state minister Abdul Mannan Khan is under trial. Many more including the former chairman of Basic Bank have been brought under the legal procedure. Despite all this, I would say we have to wait few more days for equal application of the law. There is hope in the fact that the Anti-Corruption Commission is now pro-active.
Prothom Alo: The BNP claimed this was a verdict for only to keep Khaleda Zia away from politics.
Harun-or-Rashid: The ACC filed this case during the army-backed caretaker government. The judgement has been carried out through a lengthy judicial process. This case ran for 262 days. So there is no scope to say that it was a politically motivated case.
Prothom Alo: What impact will this verdict have on politics?
Harun-or-Rashid: There are other cases against Khaleda Zia. If the verdict is upheld in the High Court, she will have to leave politics. In the same case, Tarique Rahman has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. He was sentenced before in another case. The leadership of the Zia family could be challenged. But if the High Court suspends Khaleda’s verdict and she is granted bail, then she won’t have any problem in going ahead with her politics.
Prothom Alo: So have BNP’s allegations of political vengeance been established?
Harun-or-Rashid: Not vengeance. She can say the cases were brought about to harass her.
Prothom Alo: Will there now be doubts about a participatory election ahead?
Harun-or-Rashid: The government wants a participatory election. Even if Khaleda Zia herself cannot compete in the polls, BNP can. The BNP leadership is behaving responsibly. And the government also is showing patience. I think, BNP does not want to stand up against the people, nor will they weaken themselves through violence as they did in 2013, 2014 and 2015. They will take part in the election under any circumstances.
Prothom Alo: Do you think AL will gain politically after this verdict? Many consider that the public sentiment will sway in favour of Khaleda Zia.
Harun-or-Rashid: It should be kept in mind that this is a corruption case. I don’t think that AL will be affected politically. If that happens, that will mean the people are in favour of corruption. The people have other issues to consider for the next election, rather than this case. The government will bring forward issues of development, Padma bridge construction, etc, while BNP will try to inflate the issue of this case. But that will not win people’s sympathy for BNP. However, this verdict will have an impact on the election.
Prothom Alo: The government has brought Khaleda Zia’s corruption under legal process. But is it possible to fight against corruption being in alliance with Ershad who is notorious for his corruption?
Harun-or-Rashid: This is a time of power politics. Unlike in the time of the father of the nation, no party has political morality now. In power politics, it is common to make an alliance with old foes in order to thwart the new ones. Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasad) once used to oppose the AL politics, but they are now an ally of the government.
Prothom Alo: BNP uses this argument for its alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami?
Harun-or-Rashid: The same should not be applied to measure the BNP’s coalition with Jamaat-e-Islami as Jamaat is anti-independence force.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
Harun-or-Rashid: Thank you too.
*The interview, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been re-written in English by Nusrat Nowrin.