The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party said on Tuesday that the party chairperson Khaleda Zia, who has been undergoing treatment at a city hospital for nearly two months, was not willing to go abroad for treatment under any conditions.
‘She [Khaleda Zia] told her family that she would not go for treatment abroad under any conditions,’ BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a press conference at the party chairperson’s Gulshan office.
‘The government can allow her to go abroad if it wants. For this, only the government's goodwill is needed. The government has deliberately detained Khaleda Zia,’ Fakhrul said.
Khaleda Zia’s two kidneys have weakened in addition to serious liver disease, he said, adding that a 15-member medical board advised taking her abroad for advanced treatment.
Fakhrul said that many of the convicts had received treatment abroad.
There are many such instances around the world and in Bangladesh. Khaleda Zia's fundamental and constitutional right to receive medical treatment was violated.
He urged the government to withdraw the condition of suspension of Khaleda Zia's sentence.
Claiming that the law will not be violated if Khaleda Zia is given the opportunity to receive treatment abroad, Fakhrul said that if the government withdraws the conditions related to the suspension of her sentence, there will be no fear of the seriously ill Khaleda Zia being deprived of advanced treatment.
He said that the law did not mention anywhere that there would be no opportunity to withdraw the condition for treatment.
‘Knowing that she was sick, the government released her by executive order on the condition that she would stay at home. Therefore, there is no violation of the law if the treatment of a disease is not available in the country. Access to healthcare is a fundamental right of a citizen. This fundamental right is also guaranteed by the constitution,’ the BNP leader said.
Fakhrul criticised the legal explanation given by the government regarding Khaleda’s treatment abroad by the law minister, who, referring to Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code, said that there was no scope in the law to allow Khaleda Zia to undergo treatment abroad.
Fakhrul quoted senior lawyers as saying that there was no legal barrier to providing Khaleda with treatment abroad if the government wanted.
‘The consequences of pushing a political opponent to death in an unfair manner are never good,’ he said.
‘The government must be responsible for treating an important, popular elderly citizen illegally, inhumanely, and cruelly without giving her constitutional rights.’
Responding to a question regarding prime minister Sheikh Haisna’s remark on Khaleda’s illness in London on Monday, Fakhrul said that the remarks of the prime minister were indecent and ugly.
Speaking at a programme in London, the prime minister referred to Khaleda’s age, saying she was over eighty and it was time to die.
‘She is also sick, and there is no reason to cry so much here,’ said the prime minister.
Fakrul said that such ugly and irresponsible statements could not be given by a responsible person like the prime minister.
‘Her statement proves that the owner of this country is one. There is no one but Sheikh Hasina in this country. She controls the judiciary. She doesn’t care about the law or the court. Her remarks about Khaleda Zia’s treatment show her personal and political vendetta,’ Fakhrul said.
In response to another question, he reiterated that the BNP would not participate in any election under Hasina.
‘We believe that Hasina will fall through the people’s movement,’ the BNP leader said.
Khaleda, a 78-year-old former prime minister, has long been suffering from various ailments, including liver cirrhosis, arthritis, diabetes, kidney, lung, heart, eye problems, and post-Covid complications.
Amid the Coronavirus outbreak, the government temporarily freed Khaleda Zia from jail through an executive order by suspending her sentence on March 25, 2020, with conditions that she would stay at her Gulshan house and would not leave the country. Since then, her release term has been extended every six months following her family’s plea.
The government has so far extended the convicted former prime minister’s conditional release eight times, with the most recent extension on March 12, 2023.
Khaleda was sent to the Old Dhaka Central Jail as a lower court sentenced her to five years imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018. Later, she was found guilty and convicted in another corruption case the same year.