Khaleda Zia put under house arrest, says Bangladesh opposition (Second Lead)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DHAKA - Bangladesh’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Saturday said its leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia was put “under house arrest” as the government moved to evict her early morning from the house given to her after her husband’s assassination in 1981.

Police and Rapid Action Battallion personnel took possession of the single-storeyed colonial house in the Dhaka Cantonment area, where Zia has lived for the past 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.

Hasina wants to use the house to resettle families of army officers who were killed in a mutiny staged in February last year by troopers of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the country’s border guards.

Before the BNP went into an emergency meeting Saturday, its secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain said Zia, who was still in the house, was “under house arrest”.

The government move came at the end of a month-long quit notice issued to Zia by the Dhaka High Court that rejected her appeal against an earlier eviction order.

Zia’s appeal before the Supreme Sourt is pending till Nov 29.

As the eviction process went on, Zia’s press aide and other BNP leaders vehemently denied that she was voluntarily leaving the house, the Daily Star newspaper said.

The claim on the house was made by the military, which technically owns the cantonment house, through a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations ((ISPR) department.

The ruling Awami League, meanwhile, “hailed” Zia for her reported move to “vacate” the residence.

Awami League central joint secretary Mahbub-ul Alam Hanif told the Daily Star that it was “a wise decision of the opposition leader, which will bring decency to the country and strengthen the rule of law”.

There was “no involvement of the state or the ruling party in the matter”, he said.

Anticipating the government’s move, BNP activists assembled at the Jahangir Gate of the cantonment, but were not allowed to enter,, an online newspaper reported.

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

Zia, who overwhelmingly 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 past government to seek medical treatment in London and Bangkok respectively and have been out of the country since 2008.

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