Former professor of Dhaka University Mahbub Ullah feels the verdict in a graft case that jailed BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia will hamper a participatory and fair election. "If there is no attempt to remove this obstacle, we will be affected as a nation. There is relation between the election and a politically motivated case," he said.
The professor was talking about the impact of the verdict on national politics and elections in an interview with Prothom Alo. The full text of the interview is given below:
Prothom Alo: How do you view Khaleda Zia’s sentence in the Zia Orphanage Trust case?
Mahbub Ullah: There are about 30 cases against Khaleda Zia. If her punishment is suspended by the court, she will face other cases. I guess, the other cases along with the Zia Charitable Trust one will be carried out speedily. It would be tough for her to return to the people. Yet, in our country’s political context, it is of supreme significance that Khaleda Zia has asked her party to be calm, carry out peaceful demonstrations and not to be instigated by the government. I, and the people of the country, hope that Khaleda Zia win the legal battle and return to the people. I do not believe she used the Zia Orphanage Trust funds in her personal interests.
If BNP can run the legal battle alongside a peaceful movement, she will win public sympathy. In order to do so, the party must work extensively.
People’s reaction to the Khaleda Zia verdict must be assessed. The people see that all crimes are not prosecuted. Banks are going bankrupt and these are being bailed out with public money. The cases filed against the ruling party leaders remain hanging for years. People will keep all this in mind. This verdict will have a long-term effect on politics. There are many problems in Bangladesh. There is no alternative to negotiations, to change the aggressive attitude against the political opposition. There is no substitute to dialogue. Institutions are falling apart. We cannot even be proud of our judiciary. The attorney general has recently talked about the corruption of the high court.
Prothom Alo: How will this judgment impact our politics?
Mahbub Ullah: The random arrest of BNP men, and the searches carried out in their homes over the week before the verdict, was not a healthy politics at all. Many common people had been arrested. This will have an invariable impact on politics. It has been decided that BNP will be run by joint leadership. Now it is to be seen how strong this joint leadership will be, to lead the party ahead. The international community views on the case, along with the reaction of the international media, must be taken into consideration. The issue of the verdict has come into focus. Under any circumstances, divisions within the nation or the lack of good governance, is not desirable.
Prothom Alo: In absence of Khaleda Zia, Tarique Rahman became the acting chairman of the party. Now he is also sentenced in the case and exiled.
Mahbub Ullah: I think he has been given the role technically. It is not possible for him to monitor the events of the country from abroad. The leaders staying in the country must take the key role for guiding the party.
Prothom Alo: Is there any difference between the first and second governments of BNP?
Mahbub Ullah: The BNP persons also think the second term of the government could not conduct the country as well as it did in the first term. But, there were several reasons for this. First of all, they came to power with huge support. Parties which won such support to come to power in the past, have committed even more errors. This also applies to the present government.
Prothom Alo: What kind of impact will this verdict have on the next election?
Mahbub Ullah: This verdict will hamper a participatory and fair election. If there is no attempt to remove this obstacle, we will be affected as a nation. There is relation between the election and a politically motivated case. There are examples of Indira Gandhi from India and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from Pakistan. After the judgement, doubts over a fair election have increased.
Prothom Alo: How can you compare the present BNP leadership's decision with that of 2013-14?
Mahbub Ullah: The incidents of 2013-14 were unwarranted. Now, the question is, who were responsible? Mahatma Gandhi withdrew from the movement after the Chauri Chaura incident. BNP could follow that example.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
Mahbub Ullah: Thank you too.
*The interview, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.