Bangladesh’s former PM evicted amid protests (Fourth Lead)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DHAKA - Bangladesh’s former prime minister Khaleda Zia was Saturday evicted from her government home and reached the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) office amid protests by her supporters.

The BNP leaders asked the law enforcers, who were acting on the government’s order to get the house vacated, to take the opposition chief to the party office, Zia’s spokesperson Maruf Kamal Khan was quoted as saying by the

Earlier in the day, the opposition claimed to have secured an assurance from the country’s chief justice against her eviction till the Supreme Court decides on the dispute over her stay in the colonial house in the Dhaka Cantonment area, where Zia has lived for over three decades.

The 2.72-acre plot was originally the official residence of the army’s deputy chief of staff, a position held by Zia’s husband, Gen. Ziaur Rahman, who later became the army chief, then military ruler and later the elected president. He was assassinated in 1981.

The government told the Dhaka High Court that the allotment of the house was illegal and it should be vacated.

Zia’s lawyers Saturday met with Chief Justice A.B.M. Khairul Haque at his official residence as the authorities started the eviction process.

Emerging from the meeting, Zia’s lawyer Rafiq-ul Huq told reporters: “We have been assured and we believe the government will not take any measures to vacate Khaleda’s house until November 29 when the hearing on her appeal against the high court judgment will be held.”

Maudud Ahmed, another senior lawyer and a former law minister, said he talked to Zia and the question of quitting her house “does not arise”, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency reported.

There was neither any word from the Supreme Court nor from the government on whether the eviction process, which began early Saturday morning, would continue.

The government acted after the end of a month’s notice given to Zia to vacate the house after the Dhaka High Court rejected her appeal.

However, Zia appealed before the Supreme Court where the matter is pending till Nov 29.

Meanwhile, activists of BNP mounted an offensive to counter the government’s move, blocking roads and staging demonstrations. The party has called for a countrywide dawn-to-dusk strike Sunday, which forced the government to beef up security at all key installations.

As police and Rapid Action Battalion personnel began the eviction process Saturday, BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain claimed that Zia was “under house arrest”.

Zia’s press aide and other BNP leaders vehemently denied that she was voluntarily leaving the house, The Daily Star said.

Political observers, meanwhile, said the government’s move would sharpen the conflict between Zia and her arch political rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Zia, who lost the December 2008 parliamentary election to Hasina, has been boycotting parliament.

The government has moved court to secure the return of her two sons, Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko, who were jailed in corruption cases. They were released on bail separately by the past government to seek medical treatment in London and Bangkok, respectively, and have been out of the country since 2008.

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