Khaleda Zia unlikely to contest elections after prison term extended

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia waves to activists as she arrives for a rally in Dhaka, in this January 20, 2014 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 31 October 2018
0

Khaleda Zia unlikely to contest elections after prison term extended

  • Zia’s jail term was extended in connection with her alleged involvement in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case
  • Zia’s eldest son, Tarique Rahman, the acting chairperson of the party, is also accused in the case

DHAKA: Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia cannot contest the forthcoming general election if the country’s Supreme Court doesn’t scrap her punishment, according to the chief law officer of the country, Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam. He said: “If the Supreme Court stays the High Court verdict that extended her sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment from five years, she can get a release from jail but she cannot contest the election unless the Supreme Court cancels the High Court verdict.”
Alam was taking to reporters on Wednesday after the High Court verdict, which extended Zia’s jail term from five to 10 years in connection with her alleged involvement in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The attorney general said the defense will have the opportunity to appeal this verdict in the next month.

“But she cannot run for election — even if her appeal remains pending or the operation of her sentence is suspended,” he added.
Earlier, on Feb. 8, a lower court in Dhaka pronounced a verdict of five years’ imprisonment. But the plaintiff of the case, the Anti-Corruption Commission, appealed against the verdict, asking for her punishment period to be increased since she is the main person accused in the case.
Khurshid Alam, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s lawyer, said: “The High Court granted our appeal. So, now all the convicts have the same punishment — 10 years in jail.” Three others, including Zia’s eldest son Tarique Rahman, the acting chairperson of the party, are also accused in the case. Rahman has been in exile in UK for a decade.
However, BNP leaders are still optimistic about the possibilities of Zia contesting in the next election. Advocate Sanaullah Mia, legal affairs secretary of the BNP and a penal lawyer for Zia, told Arab News: “Still there are chances and I don’t understand how the attorney general makes such remarks on this issue.”
But some political analysts say it is not “unprecedented” in many countries for a major political opponent to be kept aside from an election race.
Dr. Asif Nazrul, a Dhaka University teacher in the law department, told Arab News: “Technically still there is scope for her to contest. If the Supreme Court dismisses the ‘Leave to Appeal,’ only then will she be disqualified.”
Whatever, it will not affect her political career if her party, the BNP, wins the election race, Nazrul said. “But if the BNP fails, it will increase the political tension in the society … It may create a trend of revenge through he judicial process and eventually turn into a cause of anger and revenge.”
Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor-in-chief of BDNEWS24.com, told Arab News: “It is difficult for grassroots BNP supporters to accept a general election in which senior party functionaries will participate, but Khaleda Zia will not or cannot. As things stand today, it appears that her party is all set to take part with or without her and son Tarique Rahman to stop further erosion of the party base.”
Ha added: “Already more than 12 years out of power, the party has very little option but to accept the reality. And the reality is having at least some representation in the new parliament. Or else those who have long been investing in their political careers will get frustrated and look for alternatives, the signs of which are already there.”


Brazil seeks to privatize key stretches of Amazon highways

Updated 46 min 18 sec ago
0

Brazil seeks to privatize key stretches of Amazon highways

  • President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is seeking to overhaul Brazil’s poor transportation infrastructure
  • The Trans-Amazonian highway was inaugurated in the 1970s but only a fraction of its nearly 3,000 kilometers were paved
BRASILIA: Brazil will add the Trans-Amazonian Highway to the list of projects for privatization, its infrastructure minister said on Tuesday, seeking new investment to pave part of a dictatorship-era roadway already blamed for extensive deforestation.
The road concession will be added to a priority list for privatization at a meeting next month, Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Freitas told Reuters in an interview.
The government will package a short section of highway with a concession to run a major section of BR-163, a key northern route for shipping Brazilian grains, a ministry spokesman said later on Tuesday. The 40-km (25-mile) section of the Trans-Amazonian up for privatization will connect BR-163 with the river port of Miritituba in northern state of Para, the spokesman said.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is seeking to overhaul Brazil’s poor transportation infrastructure, which raises costs and causes delays for the commodity-exporting powerhouse, by seeking private investors to operate dozens of road, rail and airport projects.
On Monday, government Secretary Adalberto Vasconcelos, who has been tasked with creating public-private infrastructure partnerships, said the country would privatize more airports and secure new investment for railways.
For roadways, five concessions are slated for auction this year with a long pipeline of projects to follow, according to Freitas. BR-262/381 in the state of Minas Gerais, sometimes called the “Road of Death” because its poor condition has contributed to lethal accidents, will also be put on the privatization list next month, he said.
The Trans-Amazonian highway, officially known as BR-230, was inaugurated in the 1970s under Brazil’s military dictatorship, but only a fraction of its nearly 3,000 kilometers (1,864-miles) were paved and much of the existing roadway has fallen into disrepair. It stretches from the coastal state of Paraiba deep into Amazonas state. Original plans for it to reach the border with Peru were never completed.
Nevertheless, research by Brazil’s space agency and academics has linked the road to a rise in deforestation, and road improvements allowing easier access deep into the Amazon have consistently led to increased deforestation nearby.
He said that major construction firms that were implicated in corruption schemes remain unable to participate in public auctions for infrastructure projects, but could act as subcontractors for winners of concession auctions.
Engineering conglomerates Odebrecht SA and Andrade Gutierrez SA, both implicated in corruption schemes to fix contracts, signed leniency deals with the government admitting guilt and agreeing to cooperate, which allows them to contest government contracts. Companies linked to corruption but without such leniency deals may be subject to legal challenges.
“They are companies that have know-how, companies with engineering (ability), companies that can provide good services,” Freitas said.