A libel suit was on Monday filed against Bangladesh’s former premier and main opposition leader Khaleda Zia on charges of “distorting the history” by claiming that her late husband Ziaur Rahman was the nation’s first president.
A Dhaka court today recorded the suit against 68-year-old Zia, also the chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
On March 27 at a discussion on the Independence Day, Zia claimed that her husband was the first president of the country and the proclaimer of the independence.
Complainant AB Siddique, who heads a pro-Awami League ‘Jananetri Parishad’, alleged that Zia’s statement “intended to distort the history and defame Bangladesh’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before the international community”.
Siddique also sought an arrest warrant against Zia, the archrival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and daughter of Mujibur Rahman.
Metropolitan Magistrate Shamsul Arefin held a hearing on whether the complaint could be admitted as a case. But he is yet to issue an order.
BNP’s founder General Ziaur Rahman emerged as the strongman of Bangladesh after the August 15, 1975 coup, in which Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members. Ziaur Rahman was killed in another coup in 1981.
“When real and true history is written, it will say Ziaur Rahman proclaimed our independence as the first president of Bangladesh,” Zia had told the party.
Her comments came a day after her elder son Tarique Rahman, who took refuge in London to evade justice in a number of criminal and graft cases, made the identical claim that his father was the first president as he had drafted the declaration of independence.
Yesterday’s Parliament session saw a heated debate over the claims and several MPs were in favour of charging Zia with sedition.
Both the treasury and opposition benches demanded Zia be summoned to face defamation motion for the comments.
Ruling Awami League lawmaker Suranjit Sengupta told the parliament “earlier they (BNP) used to say Ziaur Rahman declared independence, now it (their claim) has turned into the first president”.