Bangladesh`s former PM Zia evicted from home amid protests

Last Updated: Sunday, November 14, 2010 - 00:30

Dhaka: Former Bangladesh premier Khaleda
Zia was on Saturday forced to vacate her posh cantonment residence
of 30 years, after security forces laid a siege around the
house to execute a High Court order, while angry BNP
supporters clashed with police in Dhaka opposing the action.

"She has left her 6 Mainul Road residence at the
cantonment paying her respect to the High Court order," an
Army spokesman told newsmen adding that the Cantonment Board
authorities extended her the due honour as she vacated the
posh house.

Inter Service press Relations director Shahinul Islam
said Zia, 66, had some of her personal belongings with her
while the "authorities" would make an inventory of the
remaining items.

Media reports said BNP supporters clashed with police
in the capital. The police have charged with batons to
disperse hundreds of opposition activists, who have been
protesting the bid to evict her from her military-owned
home she has lived in for nearly 30 years.

Large number of security officials cordoned off Zia`s
house inside the army headquarters in Dhaka today, prompting
the BNP protest.

Zia has been living in the house since 1981 when her
husband, former President Ziaur Rahman, was assassinated in a
military coup. The home was allotted to Zia on humanitarian

Asked where the opposition leader went, Islam said
"she is a respected person a former prime minister and
currently the opposition leader she can go anywhere."

But a police officer who witnessed the departure
process said Zia`s personal car carrying the national standard
drove her to nearby Baridhara area outside the cantonment

Zia`s press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan, however,
alleged that the law enforcement agency people boarded her on
a jeep after "evicting" her from her Dhaka Cantonment house.

The development came an hour after the BNP called a
nationwide dawn to dusk general strike after police and elite
anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) troops laid a siege
around her cantonment residence while army called it part of a
process to regain possession of the posh house in line with a
High Court judgement.

"The attacking and undemocratic attitude of the
government to oust our leader from her residence forces us to
call the countrywide general strike tomorrow," BNP secretary
general Kohondker Delwar Hossain told a hurriedly called press

Witnesses and television reports earlier said several
hundred policemen and RAB forces were deployed in front Zia`s
residence while BNP leaders earlier alleged she was under
virtual "house arrest". The opposition activists staged violent protests at different parts of the city throwing stones on vehicles and
setting several on fire prompting baton wielding police to
chase them while they used water cannons in front of the main
entrance of the cantonment to disperse several hundred

The army in a statement earlier today said it is the
responsibility of all to execute the HC judgement regarding
Zia`s Cantonment house and "we are bound to implement this

"The deadline for vacating the house expired yesterday
and as concerned authorities the Cantonment Board`s efforts
are underway to enforce the High Court judgement that had
allowed Zia to stay at the posh residence for 30 days," the
Inter Service press Relations (ISPR) director, Shahinul Islam
told newsmen in the morning.

The development came as several newspapers today
carried a report quoting unidentified BNP and army sources
that the opposition was preparing the quit the house as she
already moved some household items from there in the past
several days.

But the BNP secretary general and her lawyers
rejected the reports as rubbish saying Zia had no plan to
vacate the house and that was why "she preferred an appeal in
the apex court against the High Court verdict."

Attorney general Mahbubey Alam two days ago warned
Zia against her possible exposure to "contempt of court" and
eviction from posh cantonment residence unless she vacated it
by Friday.

Alam also cautioned her that any government action to
"evict her from the house will not be a violation of law" but
expected Zia to vacate it ahead of any such step.

The High Court last month asked her to vacate the
house in one month validating an earlier government notice
served on the opposition leader.

Losing initially the court battle at the High Court
level, Zia`s lawyers said the government should recall its
notice on "humanitarian consideration" but law minister
Shafique Ahmed at that time said any such consideration in her
case would an "unjust enrichment".

BNP in the past several days staged street protests
but Zia last week filed an appeal prayer before the apex
Appellate Division of the Supreme Court which yesterday
adjourned till November 29 the hearing on her petition against
the High Court verdict.

Zia`s arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s
Awami League-led government 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 while the subsequent notices furthermore
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 upon Zia asking her to leave the house by June 30
surrendering its possession to the military estate officer of
the Dhaka Cantonment. Zia filed the writ petition on May 3,
2009, challenging the notice.

Hasina 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."

"When I (Hasina) was the leader of the opposition, I
was (even) barred from entering the cantonment with my vehicle
to visit ailing writer Humayun Azad at Combined Military
Hospital, then why will the present leader of the opposition
live inside the cantonment," she questioned.

She said it was a duty of the government to return
the 2.72 acres of land to army to solve to some extent the
accommodation problems of several hundred members of the armed

The then military ruler president Hussain Muhammad
Ershad, now a crucial ally of Hasina`s Awami League-led grand
alliance government, had allocated her another posh house at
uptown Gulshan area in 1981 while she was again offered a
bigger house on area of 2.72 acres of land 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.


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First Published: Sunday, November 14, 2010 - 00:30

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