Zia firm over strike despite losing apex court appeal

Monday, November 29, 2010

DHAKA - Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia, who lost an appeal before the Supreme Court Monday against her eviction from her Dhaka cantonment government house, persisted with her call for a general strike Tuesday.

There was, however, no immediate reaction from Zia or her lawyers who lost a clutch of appeals before the apex court.

The only petition the court entertained, to be heard Tuesday, was whether the government had committed a contempt of court in evicting Zia while the appeals were pending to be heard.

Zia was living in the government-owned Dhaka cantonment house since 1972. She was evicted Nov 13.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up across Bangladesh ahead of the opposition called general strike.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is led by Zia, has alleged that over a thousand of its activists have been detained.

Hours after the Supreme Court judgment, the BNP parliamentary party rejected an appeal from parliament Speaker Abdul Hamid to end its boycott and resume attending parliament when winter session starts Dec 9.

A section of pro-BNP lawyers brought out a procession against the court verdict on the premises of the Supreme Court, demanding resignation of the chief justice, the Daily Star reported on its website.

Earlier, the three-member full bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice A.B.M. Khairul Haq turned down the petitions filed by Zia for staying the high court ruling and seeking status quo over the house issue.

Zia filed two petitions Nov 8 with the apex court challenging the high court verdict that declared as valid the government notice to her to vacate the Dhaka Cantonment house.

She also filed two other petitions with the Supreme Court Nov 23. She claimed she was evicted illegally and prayed for status quo over the house issue and an order so that she can return to the house.

Zia said she had been “forced out”, and sections of the media criticised the government’s action as being “crude”.

Zia came to live in the colonial era single-storeyed house as wife of then deputy chief of the army, General Ziaur Rahman, who later became the army chief and staged a military coup to grab power. Gen. Rahman eventually became the country’s president.

He was killed in another military-led coup in May 1981.

Then president Abdus Sattar, on recommendation of the cabinet, allotted the house to Zia’s family in recognition of the services to the nation rendered by her husband.

The Hasina government has, however, said the allotment was illegal. Hasina said she wants the house to rehabilitate the families of victims of a mutiny by border guards last year.

Tuesday’s strike call by Zia is to protest the “failures” of the Hasina government, but Hasina, currently abroad, has said Zia has “no right to make people suffer” for the sake of losing her house.

Expressing concern over “politics of confrontation” resorted to by both the BNP and the ruling Awami League, the New Age newspaper said in an editorial Monday:

“While the Awami League has no moral right to oppose the BNP-called shutdowns because of the fact that the former enforced dozens of hartals (strikes) when the BNP was in power, we believe the hartal should be last weapon for the opposition to protest against the undemocratic behaviours of an elected government.”

“Because hartal hurts, it hurts socially and economically, even those who are the victims of the autocratic governance. Hartal, therefore, doubly hurts the people.”

Filed under: Politics

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