The candidature of jailed former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia, who has filed her nomination papers for the upcoming general election in the country from three constituencies, has been rejected Sunday by the Election Commission due to her convictions in two graft cases.
The Commission’s decision came four days after the Bangladesh High Court ruled that a person jailed for more than two years cannot contest polls, effectively ruining Zia’s chance to participate in the December 30 polls.
The 73-year-old ex-premier is currently serving jail terms in two graft cases involving charities named after her slain husband Ziaur Rahman. Zia had filed nomination papers from three constituencies — two from northwestern Bogra and one from southeastern Feni, but the returning officers of the two districts scrapped her nominations as she was convicted by the court, an EC spokesperson said.
As per election rules, a candidate declared unfit to contest polls can appeal to an EC tribunal for revised decisions or could challenge the commission decision to the High Court. Besides Zia, the nomination of 15 high-profile candidates were also disqualified on different grounds, the spokesperson said.
Zia has been in custody since February 8, when the Dhaka Special Court convicted her in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case and sentenced her to five years of imprisonment for embezzling 21 million Bangladeshi Taka (USD 252,504) in foreign donations meant for the Trust. On October 30, the High Court doubled her jail term to 10 years.
On October 29, a trial court convicted her in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case and sentenced her to seven years in prison and imposed a fine of $12,024. Zia was made vice-chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the largest political opposition of the country, in March 1983 after the assassination of her husband. She became chairperson of the party on May 10, 1984, a post she is holding till now.
In her 35 years of political career, Zia went to the jail several times. During the 2007-2008 tenure of the army-backed caretaker government, she was in jail for about a year on charges of corruption.
The BNP, which boycotted the 2014 elections under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League (AL) government, is set to contest the polls in alliance with the newly formed National Unity Front (NUF) led by eminent jurist Kamal Hossain.