Parasites can't run the country: Khaleda
Tuesday, 03 June 2008

BNP Chief Khaleda

Former prime minister Khaleda Zia demanded Sunday that the state of emergency be lifted by the end of the month and elections be held by October, during her first court appearance after her arrest and detention last year.

She also accused the caretaker government of perpetuating its rule by sheer force.

"The government is sheltering the corrupt while raising slogans against them," Khaleda alleged. "But these parasitic elements or agents can't run the state of affairs."

The BNP chairperson asked her party leaders and supporters to consolidate their unity at all costs, and called upon all other political parties to remain united.

Khaleda made the comments in court Sunday by permission of judge Khandaker Kamal Uzzaman who presided over the first hearing on charge-framing against Khaleda in the Niko graft case.

It was Khaleda's first public statement since her arrest and detention on Sept 3, 2007.

The judge fixed June 8 for the next hearing.

The former PM was taken from special jail to the nearby Special Judge's Court-9, located on the Sangsad Bhaban complex, shortly after 11am.

Donning a chiffon sari, Khaleda greeted all on entering the court.

The BNP chairperson claimed that the allegations brought against her are false and the case was filed on purpose. She urged the authorities to withdraw the case.

Khaleda described the proceedings in the special court as an in-camera trial. She also condemned the inclusion of such cases under the emergency powers rules.

Demanded a trial in a conventional court, she said: "I have worked for the country. I did no unjust act. I want justice. We don't need security. I am ready to accept the verdict delivered by an open court."

"We cannot be tamed by the filing of cases against us," she added.

The BNP chairperson demanded withdrawal of the state of emergency within the month, and elections by October.

"Participation of all political parties in the election has to be ensured," Khaleda said.

Criticising the present government, Khaleda said: "In 18 months this government has taken the country 20 years back. They are turning Bangladesh into a failed state. They will have to account for this. No power is permanent."

Comparing her own tenure to the present situation of the country, the former prime minister: "We worked for the country. "

"There was much development in the country during our tenure. What is the condition of the country now?"

"The prices of essentials are beyond the reach of people. People are dying of starvation. The government has taken no action regarding this. The government should be tried for such deaths. However, the government is busy filing false cases against politicians."

Khaleda also expressed concern at the shrinking of the country's labour market. "Now we are about to lose the labour market in different countries including the Middle East."

"Trade and commerce has collapsed. The economy has collapsed."

On the judiciary, Khaleda told the court: "During our tenure the judiciary was free. Now the judiciary is not free. The judges have to follow orders."

She claimed again that her case had no merit.

The BNP chief alleged that 1/11 was part of a conspiracy. "It was staged for a conspiracy. But whatever happens must happen through the parliament."

"They wanted to 'minus' the two of us," she said of the government's briefly attempted 'minus two' policy, allegedly designed to take Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia off the political scene through exile.

"But they could not do that."

Khaleda was taken back to the special jail at about 1.45pm.

Advocate Khandaker Delwar Hossain, acting as Khaleda's counsel, told the court: "We have not received the documents of the case. In such a situation the case proceedings cannot start."

Co-accused in the case, former law minister barrister Moudud Ahmed also questioned the legality of the case.

"If awarding a contract to Canadian oil and gas company Niko Resources was against the state's interest, why had the caretaker government not cancelled the agreement?" he asked.

Two separate cases involving Niko have been filed against former prime ministers Hasina and Khaleda, and were taken up by the court on May 26.

Although Hasina was produced in the special court on that day to face charges, Khaleda was absent on the plea that she was indisposed.

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