The political future of both former prime minister Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman are now in peril after the High Court on Wednesday asked the Election Commission not to accept the proposed amendment to Article 7 of the BNP’s constitution.
Earlier on Tuesday, the chances of Khaleda Zia and her son Tareque Rahman participating in the upcoming parliamentary polls came under question after another bench of the High Court doubled the former’s five-year jail term, handed down by a lower court in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on February 8 this year.
Section 7 of the party’s constitution was a great threat to Khaleda and Tareque’s political career, as it barred anyone involved or convicted for corruption from getting membership of the party or nomination to contest parliamentary elections.
According to Section 7, people who are convicted under President’s Order No. 8, bankrupt, mentally disturbed, and infamous for graft and crimes are not eligible to become members of the party.
Since the High Court has now weighed in with its directive, there is now no chance for Khaleda Zia and her son to remain even as general members of the BNP.
Earlier on Jan 28, around two weeks before the court delivered the judgment, the BNP submitted its amended constitution to the Election Commission.
Khaleda Zia in a letter to the EC on the eight pages of proposals on the changes however said the changes were passed during the party’s national council on Mar 19, 2016.
According to the existing electoral laws, the Representation of the People Order, a political party needs to submit its constitution to the EC for registration, and it is the commission’s task to check whether it contradicts the Constitution of Bangladesh.
After the secret insertion of the amendment to the BNP constitution, political observers harshly criticized the move saying that it would definitely encourage corruption in the party.
Following the historic verdict over the amendment issue, leading political scientists told Bangladesh Post that it was totally unethical to change the BNP’s constitution to save only Khaleda Zia and Tareque Rahman’s political careers.
Referring to the 19 points of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman, some BNP leaders on condition of anonymity said point 18 espoused the establishment of a society free of corruption and based on justice.
But Khaleda Zia herself had ignored the 19-point programme by doing away with Section 7 of the BNP constitution.
Many mid level BNP leaders alleged that Khaleda Zia and Tareque Rahman maneouvered to bring about the change to retain their leadership of the party even after their conviction for corruption.
A HC bench of Justice Md Ashfaqul Islam and Justice Mohammad Ali passed the order following a petition filed by Mozammel Hossain, a resident of the city’s Kafrul area.
The move came just before a judge jailed Khaleda and her son in the Zia Orphanage Trust case on Feb 8.
Advocate Momtaz Uddin Ahmed Mehedi stood for the petitioner while deputy attorney general Al Amin Sarker and assistant attorney general KM Masud Rumi represented the State.
Advocate Momtaz Uddin Ahmed Mehedi, said Mozammel, a BNP activist, filed a petition with the Election Commission on Tuesday against legitimising the constitutional amendment of the BNP.
He also said if the amendment was accepted, it would allow corrupt and incapable people to lead the BNP. Besides, the amendment contradicted Section 66 (2) (ga) of the constitution.
He also filed a writ petition with the High Court on the same day seeking its disposal.