Bangladesh's main opposition party, the BNP, has named the 'fugitive' and convicted eldest son of Khaleda Zia as its acting chief, a day after the former prime minister was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in a graft case.
The 72-year-old three-time former prime minister was sentenced yesterday by the Dhaka's Special Court in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned- politician.
Rahman, 53, and four others have also been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Senior BNP leader Nazrul Islam Khan later told PTI that the decision was taken in line with the party's constitution and Rahman would lead the party from exile as he is now in London.
Rehman fled to London in 2008 after he was detained by an army-backed government for more than 18 months.
In 2016, he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of money laundering.
"There is no problem for him to be the party chief," Khan said when asked as a fugitive convict if he was qualified to run the party from abroad.
The opposition party's move evoked sharp response from the ruling Awami League.
Awami League general secretary and road transport minister Obaidul Quader sharply reacted to the decision, saying the BNP preferred to make someone corrupt to head the party.
He said the BNP recently scrapped a section of its constitution that had debarred dishonest people from being the party leader.
"It is now crystal clear why the BNP abolished Section 7 from its constitution. Now there is no bar in the BNP's constitution for corrupt and convicted persons to be a leader of this party," he said at a party function.
Rahman is also being tried on several other charges with one being the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on a rally of the then opposition Awami League.
Twenty three people were killed and Hasina narrowly escaped the assault while a Dhaka court nearly wrapped up the trial proceedings against Rahman and several stalwarts of the then BNP government and ex-military intelligence officials.