“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh

The judiciary in Bangladesh is under so much pressure that it is difficult to believe the five-year sentence given to former Prime Minister and Opposition leader Khaleda Zia is genuine.

The judges are on the run because of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's reported annoyance with them. One judge has gone abroad but may not return because he is said to be in the bad books of the Prime Minister. Understandably, the judge fears some action against him if and when he land at Dhaka. In fact, almost the entire judiciary is trying to rescue itself from the situation.

I am not trying to defend Begum Khaleda Zia. But the popular perception sees Sheikh Hasina's hand behind court rulings to a point where judgments are not accepted at face value. Justice Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Court, while convicting the former Prime Minister, said she was given a short jail term because of her "health and social status." This means, the Begum cannot contest the upcoming general elections in December. The charges against her are embezzling funds to the tune of 21 million takas (approximately Rs. 1.6 crore) received from foreign donors and meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust run by the family.

In fact, along with Khaleda Zia, five other people, including her son Tarique Rahman, were sentenced to 10 years jail term. The prosecution argued that the Zia Orphanage Trust and the Zia Charitable Trust, established in the name of her late husband and former President Ziaur Rahman, existed only on paper. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief and three aides have also been accused of embezzling 31.5 million takas (approximately Rs 2.5 crore) from the Zia Charitable Trust.

Following the verdict, Begum Zia had claimed during a press conference that she was implicated in a false case, and accused the ruling government of unleashing terror. "I believe the court will acquit me of all charges," she said. "It is a false case and a tool to harass me and my family." If the judgment is delivered to appease the ruling quarters, it will create a history of stigma, she added.

Khaleda Zia further said that this was an attempt to use the court against her to sideline from politics and elections and to isolate her from the people. "I am ready to face all outcomes. I am not afraid of jail or punishment. I am not going to bow down my head," said the former Prime Minister. But legal experts do say that the verdict could jeopardize Zia's career as she cannot contest polls, unless she manages to obtain a different direction from the Supreme Court.

A day after receiving a copy of the trial court's verdict, her counsels filed an appeal in the High Court challenging the verdict. The 1,223-page dossier, which mentions Abdur Rezak Khan as the filing lawyer, cited 25 grounds for Zia's acquittal alleging that the verdict was politically motivated to debar her from contesting elections, an allegation denied by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.

"As soon as the court schedules the hearing, we will file a bail petition," Sagir Hossain, one of her defence counsels told the media. Court officials said a two-judge bench is expected to hear the appeal prayer later this week.

The corruption case is one of dozens pending against the Begum, who has been a rival of Prime Minister Hasina for decades. The charges against her had already led to her boycotting polls in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.

Zia, however, appears to be seeking to contest the polls this year. BNP's secretary-general Mirza Alamgir had said during a protest rally that the party would not take part in polls without Zia. He said: "No national elections will be held without BNP Chairperson Zia."

However, Hasina contended that her government could do nothing if the BNP decides to boycott the polls. She said the elections will be held as per schedule in December whether or not the BNP takes part.

In her response to media criticism, Sheikh Hasina defended her government saying that the case against Khaleda Zia was filed in 2008 by the military-backed interim government led by Zia's confidants while the independent Anti-Corruption Commission carried out its investigation. "What we could do if they want to abstain from the elections...the court has awarded her the imprisonment, we did not and (so) we can't withdraw it either," she told a press conference.

Begum Zia, who served as the Prime Minister three times since 1991, faces 30 more charges, ranging from corruption to sedition. But the BNP was quick to react soon after she was convicted as it installed her son Rahman as the acting party chief. This was, understandably, derided by the government. Hasina even commented by saying that it reflected the BNP's "moral poverty."

It's praiseworthy that the judiciary in the third world has stayed independent. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to step down because the Pakistan Supreme Court, while holding him guilty, said the ousted Prime Minister tried to fool the court and people, both inside and outside Parliament, and never came up before the court with the whole truth. Nawaz Sharif has accepted the verdict with the remark that he would go back to the people.

Similar is the case with Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, who has been sentenced in the fodder scam by the Ranchi High Court. There are several such examples where politicians had to step down. There are also ample examples of politicians bouncing back and challenging the verdict so that they stay relevant with the public.

The system needs to be overhauled so as to disqualify corrupt politicians for life. The Supreme Court in India has hinted by saying that "criminal politicians" should not serve in the government. But the apex court has left it to the executive to make necessary changes in the system. This has not worked so far. How does the Supreme Court expect that it would in the future?


  • River in a 'Court of Law' - Legal issues pertaining to its personality
  • Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
  • When the State Sought to Muzzle Privacy, U-Turn Now Only to Accommodate SC Verdict
  • The Bull in A China Shop Wrecks Indian Economy
  • When Buddha Looks The Other Way: The Plight Of The Rohingya
  • A Fatal Blow to The Judiciary
  • The Dramatic Rise in Wealth Inequality
  • Wild And Baseless Speculations of Crisis in the CPI(M)
  • Budget 2018: Fantabulous Schemes With Not A Paisa Earmarked
  • Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate
  • PM Modi Sounds the Election Bugle: Congress and Hindutva the Agenda for 2019 Polls
  • The US Game Plan in Syria
  • Both Nehru and Patel Were the Need of the Hour in 1947-48
  • The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh
  • Why Bangladesh Matters
  • Kejriwal's Apology is Not What the Media Claims
  • Arrest of a '5-minute Dalits' Proves Why SC/ST Act Dilution Will Grossly Impact Real Dalits
  • The Dalits and the Law
  • Winners May Be Losers In Karnataka's Catch 22 Endgame
  • Jinnah and the BJP
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Nov 14 1889- May 27, 1964): We Still Live In A House That Nehru Built
  • Implications of Trump-Kim Summit: Nuclear Pays!
  • Thomas Reuters Foundation Survey: Measuring Safety, Generating Outrage
  • What Are People Voting for?
  • Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India
  • Changing Discourse
  • Assam: The Mythology of "Immigrants"
  • Imran Time is Here
  • 71 Years on, Forsty Relations Countinue
  • To Stop Climate Change, We Need to Open Bordera
  • Make Use of Bid to Postpone Provincial Elections
  • Cringing and Fuddled at 71
  • Ensuring Strident Voice Will Not Become Majority Voice
  • Nehru, Vajpayee and Modi
  • Religious Bias Okayed
  • The Oslo Accords: A Bloody Legacy of Betrayal
  • Crushing the Campus
  • Three Stories And Task of The Office Of Missing Person
  • Drama Over Indo-Pak Meeting
  • An ill Wind
  • Symbolic Actions Alone Are Insufficient For Long Term Change To Occur
  • If Democracy Subverts Itself
  • Returning Land to Civilians is a Promise That Needs Follow Up
  • Democracy In Crisis: What we Know and What we Don't
  • Reparations Office Can Bind The Nations Together
  • Implementation Challenges Facing The Ayushman Bharat Program
  • Subverting the Central Bank
  • Under the Yoke of New-Imperialism: A Fake War of Patriotism and Treason
  • India Joins the Club
  • The Third Phase
  • President is Best Situated to Resolve Political Crisis
  • No Country for Adventure: Challenges Extreme Sports Athletes Face in India
  • Setting A Perilous Political Precedent
  • What Rahul and Modi can do in the Next Four Months
  • Finding a Win-Win Solution to Break the Deadlock
  • Temple in the Age of Colliders
  • Four Parameters of a Political Solution at This Time
  • Resolve National Question With President's Support
  • Decapitating the Leadership
  • Four Takeaways From the 2018 Election
  • Science of Words
  • The Ace up Modi's Sleeve
  • The Government Must Not Deny The TNA
  • The Prolonged Wait For Justice And For Political Leadership
  • Endgame in Afghanistan
  • Pluralist Ethos is More Relevant to National Identity
  • A Concerned Citizen's Points For Inclusion in The Manifesto of Political Parties
  • In My Own Voice: Circle of Unreason
  • RBI To The Rescue of Modi Government - It's Election Time!
  • Say No to War
  • A terrifying Fallout
  • The Type of Leadership The Country Needs
  • Death Wish as Nationalism
  • Politics on Kashmir Need Not be About Optics Alone
  • Why an Urban Job Guarantee Scheme is Not a Bad Idea
  • National Security: The New in 'New Normal'
  • Re-Promulgating an Ordinance is a Fraud on the Constitution
  • Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads
  • Peace and Inclusive Development
  • NYAY Providing Basic Income Fulfills the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Changed Election Narrative Based on Basic Issues
  • Advani Should Blame Himself For Promoting Modi
  • Kashmir: Tracing the Degeneration of Mainstream Politics
  • Elections and the Issue of Civil Liberties
  • Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat
  • BJP: Hiding Failures, Targeting Nehru
  • A Mayawati Moment
  • Godse is a Synonym of Hindu Nationalism, Agenda of the RSS Combine!
  • Development Beyond Numbers
  • A Rational Approach to Countering Extremist Violence is Needed
  • In My Own Voice: Is This the Sprit of Democracy?
  • Prevention is The Best Migration Cure
  • The Rise of Hate
  • The Right Mantras for India's Change
  • Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
  • Easter Sunday Bombing Used to Create a Major Rift in Sri Lankan Society
  • Hacking Humanity
  • Environmental Rule of Law in India
  • Peace is a Word That West Has Taken From Afghans
  • Trump's War Games
  • Modi & States
  • Who is an 'Outsider' in West Bengal?
  • China on Maps
  • 19th Amendment Will Correct Itself at End of President's Current Term
  • Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Public Ethics in India
  • Presidential Candidate The People Want
  • Has India's Kashmir Cape Given Pakistan Reason for War?
  • Icons and Ideology of Religious Nationalism
  • Why NRC in Assam May Create Another Kashmir
  • Campaign to Abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka is a Red Herring
  • As US Tries to Isolate Iran, China Steps In
  • Of Hindi and Hierarchy
  • Why Sri Lankan Elections May Bring Far Reaching Change
  • What US Policy Tells Us About India's Growing 'Friendship' With It
  • Gandhian Philosophy is a Critique of Modernity and Power
  • Inner Party Democracy is Just as Important as Funding
  • India's Foreign Policy Has Dug Itself a Deep Hole
  • 'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
  • The Ninth Betrayal: America Has Let Down Khurd, Yet Again
  • Who Benefits From The WhatsApp Hacking Case?: Pertinent Question Left Unanswered
  • State Elections Results Expose "Limits" of BJP's Nationalist Agenda
  • "Religious Belief" vs. "Rule of Law": Did SC's Ayodhya Verdict Legalise Building of a Theocratic State?
  • What Does Trump's "New Refugee Ban" Mean for America's Immigrants?
  • India Must Change Course as Rajapaksas Return on Sinhala Buddhist Wave
  • The Supreme Court's First Judgment Without an Author
  • Geopolitics in South Asia Renders Millions Stateless
  • "Shakespeare's Vision of the Improbale" Unfolds: Is Modi Today's Macbeth?
  • Sri Lanka Under Rajapaksa: Finding Areas of Mutual Agreement
  • "The Game of Religion is Played by Men": Women Speak From the Margins of Ayodhya Dispute
  • Telangana Ecounter- Failure of Local Police Poses Grave Danger to Democracy
  • The Changing Nature of War and Diplomacy
  • Sri Lanka: Government's Cooperation A "Temporary Phenomenon"?
  • The Role of Corruption in This Season of Revolts
  • New Citizenship Law to a "Brazenly Divisive Agenda"
  • Youth Agitation Against CAA Brings a Historic Generational Shift
  • "Digital Authoritarianism": With Internet Shutdowns Normalised, the Digital Space is Democracy's New Battleground
  • Sri Lanka: The Challenge of Development Amidst Devolution of Power
  • The Political Divides that Split India
  • 'Never Again': Echoes of Nazi Crimes Remain Alive 75 Years After Auschwitz
  • "Legacy of Mutual Suspicion" Plagues Opponents of the Modi Regime
  • "Toxic" India Sliding into an Environmental Abyss
  • Manufacturing Hate: From Anurag Thakur's 'Shoot the Traitors' to Pistol-Bearing Youth's 'Yeh lo Azaadi!'
  • Kejriwal Isn't Communal, But His Desire Not to be Seen Anti-Hindu May Prove Self-Defeating
  • Religion States Won't Oppose US-Taliban Deal
  • Lessons From Pathogens: Coronavirus, A wake Up Call?
  • The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
  • Cold War Begins As Nations Fued Over Coronavirus
  • India Fights Coronavirus...With Scriptures, Morals and Police
  • The Burden of COVID 19
  • Do Israeli Settelemnts in Occupies West Bank Constitute a War Crime ?
  • The Global Debate on COVID-19 Lockdown: Listen to Divergent Scientific Voices or Risk Manipulation by Big Businesses?
  • Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings And The Demand For Justice
  • How India Can Solve the "Catch-22 Situation" of Allowing Migrant Workers to Return Home
  • The Time for Universal Basic Income Has Arrived
  • COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders
  • The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?
  • The Muslim Elite Has Let Down the Muslim Poor
  • "There is Nothing Nationalist or Non-Nationalist in Reporting"
  • Why WHO Took 3 Months to Declare a Global Pandemic
  • A Political Lockdown That Silences Voices
  • The 'Relief Package' of Online Education May End up "Institutionalising Drop Outs"
  • Can Democracy Survive the Coronavirus?
  • As China Ups the Ante, This is What India Must do...
  • Tackling Racism With Compassionate Reporting-CNN Leads The Way
  • Sri Lanka: Pluralism In Governance Required In The Absence of Parliament
  • Idia's Tactical Non-Solutions To China's Incursions in Ladakh
  • "At The Brink of A New Cold War": Sino-US Ties at a Crossroads
  • In Light of Rising Conservatism, Can The Personal be Political Again?
  • India-China: The Complete Breakdown of Trust, How and Why
  • Rethinking Development After Covid-19
  • The Pandemic Must Transform Our Agriculture
  • Treacherous Road to Make Manu History