Bangla govt asks Zia to vacate cantonment house immediately

Bangladesh government asked opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia to immediately vacate her posh cantonment residence in line with a court order or face contempt of court.

Updated: Nov 12, 2010, 00:49 AM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh government on Thursday asked
opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia to immediately vacate her
posh cantonment residence in line with a court order or face
contempt of court.

On the eve of a High Court deadline allowing the BNP
leader to stay for 30 more days at the official residence
inside the Dhaka cantonment expiring, Attorney General
Mahbubey Alam told newsmen here: "She will commit contempt of
court unless she voluntarily leaves the cantonment house by
Friday".

Alam cautioned that any government action to "evict
her from the house will not be a violation of law" but said
the government expects her to vacate ahead of any such step.
The High Court had last month asked Zia to vacate the
house in a month`s time, validating a government notice served
on the opposition leader.

Zia`s lawyers had said that the government should
recall its notice on "humanitarian consideration" but law
minister Shafique Ahmed responded by saying that any such
consideration in her case would be an "unjust enrichment".

BNP has in the past several days staged street
protests over the issue and Zia last week filed an appeal
before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
The apex court yesterday adjourned till November 29
the hearing on her petition against the High Court verdict.

The SC, however, did not stay the operation of the High Court,
apparently prompting the attorney general to issue a warning.
A lawyer of the opposition leader, however, said Zia
was unlikely to be faced with any contempt charge since her
case was pending before the highest court of the country.

The government of Zia`s arch-rival Sheikh Hasina last
year asked her to vacate the posh residence on an area of 2.72
acres of land at the Dhaka Cantonment, which she was allotted
29 years ago under a controversial lease agreement.

The cabinet on April 8, 2009 cancelled the lease on
grounds that the leasing process had been faulty and she
violated lease terms. Subsequent notices also said she was
carrying out political activities from the house located in a
"protected area".

The authorities in May last year issued a third notice
to Zia, asking her to leave the house by June 30 surrendering
its possession to the military estate officer. Zia filed the
writ petition on May 3, 2009, challenging the notice.
Hasina had earlier urged her arch-rival to return to
the state her house saying "taking possession of a house
illegally by a former primer, who is now the leader of the
opposition, is not fair".

Speaking at a party rally, Hasina yesterday alleged
that the opposition was trying to create an issue over the
notice to Zia to destabilise the country, as pro-BNP lawyers
reportedly created a chaotic situation in Supreme Court
complex. "It is a duty of the government to return the army
land to military, if they could regain the 168 kathas of land,
they could solve to some extent the accommodation problems of
several hundred members of the armed forces," Hasina said.

The then military ruler president Hussain Muhammad
Ershad, now a crucial ally of Hasina`s Awami League-led
alliance, had allocated to Zia another posh house at uptown
Gulshan area in 1981 and she was again offered a bigger house
at the cantonment in 1982.

"Under the rules two houses cannot be allocated to
one person," a government statement earlier said.
Zia was allocated the houses after the assassination
of her husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler turned civilian
president, in an abortive 1981 coup.

PTI