Friday, 21 January, 2022

Khaleda now facing passport problem

The BNP chief has no valid passport; law bars a convict from getting one

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 7 December, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news
Khaleda now facing passport problem

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is now facing a new problem over getting her passport to travel abroad for treatment, if the government allows her, as the law bars her from availing herself of it for being convicted on graft charges.

At present, the BNP chief has no valid passport to travel abroad.

The issue of passport came to the fore after Law Minister Anisul Huq hinted at looking into legal scope of granting her family’s plea to take her abroad for treatment.

Sources at home ministry and Dhaka passport office said Khaleda has no scope as per the law for getting a passport as she is a convict.

BNP leaders claim that she can avail herself of the opportunity to get a passport through the executive order of the government. So, it totally depends on the government to allow her to have the passport, they added.

BNP Vice-chairman Advocate Joynul Abedin, also a counsel of Khaleda, said there is no legal barrier for her to getting the passport if the government wants.    Section 6 (1) (C) of the Bangladesh Passport Order, 1973 (President's Order) stipulates that the authorities concerned may refuse to issue a passport or travel document on anyone that the applicant has, at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the date of his application, been convicted by a court in Bangladesh for any offence involving moral turpitude, and sentenced in respect thereof to imprisonment for not less than two years.

The BNP chief earlier applied on May 6 this year for renewal of her passport to go abroad for her medical treatment.

“The passport office told us that her passport was ready. When we went to receive it, the officials said they could not hand over the passport due to a problem regarding it,” Khaleda’s personal secretary ABM Abdus Sattar told the Daily Sun.

He further said, “We haven’t received any further message from the passport office about whether the passport (of Khaleda) is cancelled or not or why it is held up.”

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government freed the BNP chief from jail for six months on March 25, 2020 through an executive order of the Prime Minister, suspending her sentences. Later, her release was extended for several times.

Before being readmitted to the hospital, the BNP chief was staying at her Gulshan residence in the capital since her release from jail.

Khaleda, a 76-year-old former prime minister, has been receiving treatment at Evercare Hospital Dhaka for various health complications since November 13.

The BNP chief’s medical board members on November 28 said she immediately needs to go abroad for better treatment as she was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis.

On behalf of her family, Khaleda's younger brother Shamim Iskander submitted an application to home ministry on November 11 seeking permission to take her abroad for treatment.

On November 28, the law minister told parliament that Khaleda is now free as she is not in government custody.

On Sunday, he said the government is looking into legal scope for allowing the BNP chairperson to go abroad for treatment. “Earlier, two applications to allow Khaleda Zia to go abroad have been rejected. Now, we’re examining whether there’s any scope in this regard. A decision will be taken examining all the aspects so that law is not violated,” he said.

In this situation, the home ministry sources said Khaleda may get her passport under a special arrangement through the executive order of the government if she gets permission to go abroad.

But she has to apply again for renewable of the passport and this time she also has to give fingerprints and other necessary documents for e-passport. Asked about Khaleda’s passport, Major General Mohammad Ayub Chowdhury, director general of the Department of Immigration and Passports, told the Daily Sun, “We don’t give anyone’s information to others. We give individual’s passport information only to the person concerned.”

The BNP chairperson on May 14, 2014 had deposited her red passport to the passport authorities and applied for a green one.

She later got a machine readable passport on May 18, 2014. Her passport expired on May 17, 2019. Her birth place was mentioned as Dinajpur in the passport.