Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has warned the BNP that the government will take appropriate action if any violence occurs during their recent protests demanding that party chief Khaleda Zia be allowed to seek treatment abroad.
The home minister also advised the BNP to stick to ‘prayer services, human chain protests and other democratic demonstrations’.
“The BNP is a political party and it can hold such programmes,” Khan said in response to a question from the media at the Secretariat on Sunday.
“But our law enforcers will take appropriate action to protect the lives and the property of the people.”
The BNP had previously threatened to call a strike if their party chief was not allowed to go abroad for medical care.
The 76-year-old former prime minister is suffering from a number of illnesses including arthritis, diabetes, and kidney, lung and eye issues. She has been admitted to the Critical Care Unit at Dhaka’s Evercare Hospital since Nov 13.
Her family has petitioned the government to allow her to seek advanced treatment overseas. But the government says that, as her prison sentences in two graft cases have been suspended, she is not allowed to go abroad. If she returns to prison, the government could reconsider the matter.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that she has done all that is in her executive power on the matter and that it was now ‘a matter of the law’.
A group of five parties allied with the 20-party alliance and led by Kalyan Party Chairman retired Maj Gen Syed Mohammad Ibrahim petitioned the home ministry on Sunday to demand that the BNP chief be released and allowed to seek treatment abroad on humanitarian grounds.
The home minister had promised to take their petition to the prime minister, following the proper procedures.
A PROTEST OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT
Five members of parliament from the BNP gathered for a human chain demonstration in the south plaza of Parliament to press for the demand on Sunday.
They were Harunur Rashid of Chapainawabganj-3 constituency, GM Siraj of Bogura-2, Mosharraf Hossain of Bogura-4, Ukil Abdul Sattar of Bahmanbaria-2, Aminul Islam of Chapainanawabganj-2 and Rumeen Farhana from a reserved seat.
In a brief speech during the demonstration, they pleaded to President Abdul Hamid to clear the way to send Khaleda abroad for treatment.
“Our leader Khaleda Zia is at the junction of life and death. The leader’s family made an appeal to the government [to send her abroad], but it was ignored,” Siraj said.
“The physicians have suggested she be treated in a modern hospital overseas. The party has repeatedly demanded this, but the government is paying no heed.”
“We want to appeal to the president to utilise his jurisdiction to release Khaleda Zia and arrange for her treatment. He has the constitutional power to do that.”
Rashid said, “In the period between 1996 and 2009, the government gave clemency to over 30 death-row convicts which was unlawful. Murderers, Yaba dealers, human traffickers and culprits involved in money laundering are roaming outside. But the government has continued to unjustly torture former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.”
“We want to clearly demand that Khaleda Zia be provided with proper treatment without further delay. If something undesirable befalls upon her, it will force us to walk out of parliament.
Rumeen Farhana said, “Khaleda Zia is the victim of vengeance. According to Section 401 [of the penal code], the government can pardon anyone, penalised or not, conditionally or unconditionally.”
“Khaleda Zia's punishment was suspended under the law. The government postponed her release in phases. But the law minister says that there is no opportunity for her to travel overseas.
“This is a complete lie and abuse and misinterpretation of the law. As a lawyer, I’d say that the government can take any decision under the section.”