Op-Ed

Khaleda’s health concern bites into government’s credibility
Shahid Islam
26 Jun,2018

It’s an election year; although cloud of uncertainty blurs the political horizon by keeping the nation under suspense with respect to whether the country’s main opposition party will join the electoral race unless its demand for an interim regime is fulfilled to have the election conducted in a fair, unfettered manner. Added to this is the health concern of the BNP’s chairperson Khaleda Zia, who had undergone in prison some sort of sensual lapses of late, suspected as a minor stroke.


Genuine health hazard

The former PM has not been transferred to a hospital immediately after she became senseless and remained unconscious for nearly ten minutes.  Nor the prison authorities informed her next of kin, or party bosses, about this grave health deterioration of their leader. Being of the age of 73 — and having undergone the trauma imposed by deaths of close family members, including a son (Koko); eviction from a house where over four decades’ of memory starred painfully as she was forcefully thrown out; and now staying dumped in a ghost-infested abode for an alleged crime and conviction that had not benefitted her a penny personally—her health is certainly an issue that the prison authorities cannot just brush aside under any form of dictate from the power that be.

Mud-slinging politics

As she suffers in the prison, with serious health risk that could plausibly snatch away the last breath from her life, the government wants to make sure she goes for a treatment at the Bongobondhu Medical College Hospital, which she doesn’t like or prefer. Her party leaders insist she should be sent to her chosen private hospital, the United, that has better medical equipment like the MRI, and better lodging arrangement which the government-run hospitals lack.

But politics in Bangladesh has its own odour, and no wonder some ruling party leaders say the BNP leader is unwilling to go to the Bongobondhu hospital due to the name by which the hospital is run.

Our inquiry shows that not to be the reason. The first reason, as per some BNP insiders, is the security risk in the Bongobondhu medical college hospital due to most of its physicians and technicians being of AL indoctrination, denomination, and hence, blatantly partisan.  They are by nature antagonistic to Khaleda Zia.

This may sound incredible and, the world will simply laugh at hearing that doctors of a nation can be tagged with partisan rubric to pose grave threat to patience belonging to perceived or real opposition camps.That is however the reality in all public-run installations and institutions of this nation. The second reason is: even the VVIP suites in the Bongobondhu hospital are worse than normal cabins in any professionally run private hospital.

Jail code and humanism

As this political mud-slinging goes on, the charade is robbing the BNP leader of her vitality to survive; unless a prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment gets her out of this impending, life-threatening health hazard. The jail code may allow a prisoner to be treated at the public hospitalsonly, but, as George Orwell reiterated, some animals are alwaysmore equal than the others. A three time PM of the country—and an agile, uncompromising leader with the laurels to have snatched democracy from the jaws of dictatorship in the late 1980s— deserves to be more than equal by any count.Moreover, above all laws and regulations lies the innate codes of humanism that must reign supreme in any civilized society.

Political charade, painful parade

This political charade, or the painful parade, relating to the health of an old lady is not playing well in the public arena in an election year. By now, the nation has embraced Khaleda as a victim of the ruling party’s vendetta and recrimination. If she dies in prison, she’ll be a martyr of much distinction; as was her husband who emerged bigger in death than in life. God forbid, if Khaleda dies in prison, the BNP will then be more popular as a party for two reasons.

First: the party’s founding leader, ZiaurRahman, introduced multi-party democracy in the late 1970s in a country that became a one-party dictatorship after having won independence under the incessant quest for pluralistic democracy. Secondly: the BNP under Khaleda Zia too sought and strove to restore democracy amid a similar attempt to turn this nation into a one-party monopolistic political entity.

Hence, Khaleda’s death in prison will make her such a colossus in the cause of democracy restoration that no amount of eye-washing, guile, or hoodwink by any quarter will be able to eviscerate or diminish the glow of that feather of glory.

Last words

This was happening just before the Holy Eid-Ul-Fitr when many non-risk-posing prisoners even get pardoned as a gesture from the state. Here we have an uncompromising leader and former PM rotting in the prison due to her High-Court-granted bail being blocked by other warrants of arrest foisted upon her one after another; under a blueprint to throw her out of the political orbitor, to get her outright decimated.

May be, as a nation, we should get back to senses to leave for the posterity some magnanimous anecdotes that—like the globally acclaimed caretaker interim regime formula we once introduced and followed—others can emulate. As it stands now, the ‘Khaleda charade’ is badly biting into the credibility of the incumbent regime and the nation alike. It should end sooner.