South Asia

Zia’s birthday controversy: Court issues arrest warrant

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia are seen in this combo. A complainant has alleged that Ms. Zia deliberately gave her birth date as August 15, as it was on that day in 1975 that ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and most of his family members were assassinated.  

An arrest warrant has been issued for Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia in a case filed over the former Prime Minister celebrating her birthday on August 15, the day the country’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members in 1975.

Dhaka’s Metropolitan Magistrate passed the order on Thursday after the complainant submitted a petition for issuing an arrest warrant against Ms. Zia. The warrant was issued after Ms. Zia failed to appear before the court though three dates of hearings have passed.

The complainant alleged that though Ms. Zia’s actual date of birth was not August 15, she celebrated it every year on that day “to deliberately undermine and dishonour the Father of the Nation”. Bangladesh observes National Mourning Day on the same day.

In support of his claim, the complainant also submitted copies of Ms. Zia’s passport, marriage certificate and exam mark sheets taken prior to leaving school as well as a 1991 news report on her biography run by various national dailies.

The beleaguered former premier, whose party is out of parliament for boycotting the 2014 elections, began celebrating her controversial birthday on August 15, cutting huge cakes, from 1996 when her arch rival Sheikh Hasina became the Prime Minister first time after the 1975’s bloody political changeover. Ms. Zia’s party, the BNP, also celebrates the birthday every year on this day .

No evidence

In fact, there is no conclusive evidence as to when the Bangladesh’s first women Prime Minister was actually born.

Ms. Zia was born in Bangladesh’s northern town of Dinajpur and was married to Ziaur Rahman, then a captain of the Pakistan Army, in August 1960. Rahman, who took part in the 1971 liberation war, was promoted to Major General. He managed to capture power and emerged as the country’s first military dictator in the aftermath of assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975.

After the assassination of President Gen Ziaur Rahman in 1981, Ms. Zia, a housewife till then, stepped into the political hot seat and became the chairperson in 1984. Her role was crucial in creating a popular base for the party, which was formed by her military dictator-turned-president-husband in the cantonment.

Ms. Zia become the first women Prime Minister of Bangladesh when her party won the 1991 elections. She was also the Prime Minister for a brief period after a controversial election in February 1996. She became the premier a third time when the BNP and Jamaat e Islami-led coalition won an election in 2001 .

As the BNP boycotted the January 5, 2014 elections, Ms. Zia lost her seat in Parliament for the first time in 24 years.

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Printable version | Jul 21, 2021 11:58:08 PM |

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