Friday, September 12, 2008

Khaleda’s release and beyond

Khaleda’s release and beyond
Source: Editorial, New Age
September 12, 2008

FORMER prime minister Khaleda Zia’s release on bail yesterday is indeed a welcome development, particularly because of the military-controlled interim government’s decision to show respect to the court orders granting her bail in all the cases. Given that this regime has shown a tendency to place arbitrary roadblocks on the release of corruption suspects, often re-arresting them from the jail-gate in hastily put-together cases after the courts have granted them bail, we could not be sure whether the court orders would be followed through this time around. At the same time, it is now an open secret that the release of both Sheikh Hasina in June and Khaleda Zia yesterday took place following intense negotiations leading to agreements between them and the present regime, the contents of which are altogether unknown to us. We believe the people have the right to know what negotiations and agreements have taken place.

We have long argued that while the government must pursue through legal avenues those who have allegedly engaged in corruption, regardless of their power or profile, it should not stand in the way of corruption suspects seeking and being granted bail by the courts. In our view, there was little reason to drag Khaleda Zia to jail in the first place and even fewer reasons for her prolonged incarceration. The same was the case with Awami League president Sheikh Hasina. The emergency government could easily have pursued the cases against the two leaders without jailing them for such long periods. After all, there was little, if any, chance that they would attempt to abscond. At the same time, there is hardly any justification left to keep incarcerated other corruption suspects who are yet to be convicted or acquitted by the courts. We, therefore, urge the government to allow everyone indicted on bailable charges to seek bail from the courts and to honour the decisions of the courts in the bail petitions.

Now that Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina are both free, at least for the time being, while the cases against them are under trial, a new responsibility falls on the two leaders. While it is true that the present regime has been an incompetent manager of the state and has further complicated the political process rather than levelling the electoral playing field, it is also true that the people of this country do not wish to return to the politics of the past. At the same time, while the people have never supported the imposition of reforms on the parties from the outside by an unelected regime, they understand nevertheless that the parties must internally democratise by bringing about major reforms. All this time, both the BNP and the Awami League have said that internal reforms would be brought about under the leadership of their top leaders once they are released from jail. Now that both the top leaders have been released, they owe it to the people of this country, who have stood by them through thick and thin, to bring about the kind of reforms within their parties that are necessary and to change the essentially corrupt nature of our politics.

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