A court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant against former prime minister and head of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Khaleda Zia and 27 other leaders over an arson attack on a passenger bus in January last year.
Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge Kamrul Hossain Mollah made the order in which he asked police authorities to submit a report to the court on April 27 with details of their action to execute the order.
It is unlikely Khaleda Zia will be arrested anytime soon as she has the option of seeking bail from a higher court, and such political cases usually take a long time to be settled.
A BNP insider told Hindustan Times by phone that the case against Zia was “politically motivated”.
“This is nothing but a tactic of the government to hide its failure by triggering new issues using such cases against the opposition,” said Rumeen Farhana, a member of the BNP’s foreign affairs committee.
Wednesday’s order came after the judge accepted the charges against Zia and her colleagues. Investigators from the detective branch alleged they had instigated the attack and carried out subversive activities by using fire bombs in the incident of January 23, 2015 during a nationwide transport blockade aimed at ousting the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
At least one person died and 30 others were injured in the attack at Dhaka’s Jatrabari area during protests that paralysed the country for nearly three months.
At least 150 people died across the country, mostly in fire bomb attacks, during the protests, in which the Jamaat-e-Islami was also involved. The movement failed to remove Hasina, who returned to power in January 2014 through an election boycotted by the BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and their allies.
During the violence, Hasina vowed to bring those responsible to book. She accused Zia and the Jamaat-e-Islami of using brutal tactics in the name of the anti-government movement.
Zia and her colleagues rejected allegations that the BNP and its allies were involved in violence and shifted the blame to intelligence agencies and the government, saying they were killing people to foil the anti-government movement.