An arrest warrant was on Thursday issued against BNP chief Khaleda Zia over her controversial birthday celebration on August 15, which is observed as the National Mourning Day in Bangladesh marking the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members in 1975. A local court passed the order after the complainant submitted a petition seeking an arrest warrant against the 71-year-old chief of the main opposition party outside the parliament.
“(Zia) was summoned by the court but she did not appear during three previous hearings… So the magistrate issued the arrest warrant in line with legal procedure,” a court official told PTI. He said Zia’s “defiance” prompted the prosecution to seek the arrest warrant. Metropolitan Magistrate of Dhaka Mazharul Islam also asked the police to submit a compliance report on March 2 next year.
Legal experts said the police was unlikely to arrest the former prime minister immediately as they were given nearly four months to comply with the order and by that time she could secure bail, appearing in person before the court. Zia’s birthday celebration on August 15 has been a major irritant for the ruling Awami League since she began to celebrate it on the day in 1996, the year Awami League led by archrival and Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina returned to power after 21 years of political wilderness.
A journalist in August this year filed a case questioning the genuineness of the birthday, alleging that Zia chose the day only to ridicule Bangladesh’s ‘Father of the Nation’. The complainant said according to Zia’s marriage
certificate she was born on August 9, 1944, her first passport says the date was August 5, her school final exam marksheet points the day to be September 5, 1946, while her official biography published in 1991 says the date is August 19, 1945. “I have submitted copies of all these documents before the court as none of those suggest that she was born on August 15,” complainant Gazi Zahir earlier told reporters.
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Hasina’s elder son and ICT affairs adviser to the premier Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed Joy in a Facebook post earlier said Zia displayed “real bad taste” by celebrating her “fake” birthday on August 15. “What kind of person does this,” he asked. The bitterness between the Zia and Hasina grew after prosecution witnesses and evidence suggested that Zia’s elder son and BNP’s senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman masterminded the deadly August 21, 2004, grenade attack on Hasina. Hasina escaped the attack but 21 people were killed in the incident.
Zia or her party has so far preferred to remain indifferent to the criticism.