Two leading India newspapers on Friday welcomed the conviction of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique in a corruption case relating to the Zia Charitable Trust.
The Economic Times said in an editorial that the court verdict against Khaleda “sends out the message that powerful politicians can be punished for corruption and that the law, no matter how slowly, does eventually catch up.”
It said “the biggest beneficiary of the guilty verdict is Zia’s political rival and the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina…. The general impression is that those with political connections can avoid the consequences of breaking the law or violating public trust.” But “things are changing in India, and, it is to be hoped, in Bangladesh as well,” it added. The editorial said the court ruling “must become the starting point for heralding real change in the political arena. This would require ensuring that the rule of law prevails and that the integrity of the system and institutions remains unimpeachable. Building robust, independent and responsive institutions must be the focus.”
“It is only when people have faith in institutions that democracy works. Otherwise, such momentous developments will carry a whiff of political witch-hunting,” The Economic Times opined.
The Indian Express newspaper said the the court “did well” to convict Khaleda for graft but hastened to add that “in public perception, her (Khaleda’s) incarceration paves the way for a further consolidation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vast political power.” It said “if the BNP leader is not allowed to participate in general elections scheduled for December this year and her party boycotts the polls like it did five years ago in 2013, then Hasina and her Awami League party may accumulate such untrammelled power that, many feel, she may be tempted to transform Bangladesh into a state less democratic.”
The Indian Express front-paged the story of Zia’s conviction in the graft case as did The Hindu and The Asian Age newspapers while some other dailies like The Times of India and Hindustan Times published it in “Foreign” pages.
The Indian Express editorial said “…the fact remains that Hasina’s reputation at home has rapidly deteriorated — from the brave courageous woman who returned home despite the fact that her family members, including her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, were killed by the assassin’s bullet in 1975….But in the past five years, during her second term as prime minister, Bangladeshis are angry that she has seemingly condoned nepotism, corruption and faction-fighting and this has contributed to her growing unpopularity,” said the lead The Indian Express editorial.
It said “By all accounts, she has not been able to let go of her terrible personal animosity against Zia. She believes the BNP is hand in glove with the Jamaat-i-Islami several of whose members once colluded with the enemy, Pakistan, in the liberation war. Some of this may even be true. Hasina’s enormous trauma and perhaps even a personal desire for revenge may be understandable. But for a prime minister to be seen to stake her country’s future at the altar of hate can only diminish her — and drag her country down.
“Hasina’s inability to create the democratic space that will allow her opponent to be judged by the people of Bangladesh risks undermining the spirit of the liberation war….For Hasina, otherwise so brave in fighting both terrorists and radical Islamists, to be seen to be actively creating the conditions to bring Zia down, is to sow the seeds of a brittle state,” according to The Indian Express.
It said “The courts did well to convict Zia for corruption. But Bangladesh’s prime minister needs to dig deeper into her reserves to build the sinews of a democratic and compassionate nation today.”