Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia has been charged by police with masterminding an arson attack on a bus that left 29 people injured, days after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the former premier could be put on trial for recent violence.
"She (Zia) has been charged in a particular case of carrying out the arson attack on a bus with petrol bombs on Friday evening at Jatrabari area (in the capital)," a police officer familiar with the development told reporters.
He said the Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader was named in the case as the 'hukumer ashami' or accused of ordering the attack that wounded 29 people, nine of them critically.
Another official, on condition of anonymity, told PTI that the case was filed early yesterday but the disclosure came late night because of the death of Zia's self-exiled younger son Arafat Rahman Koko in Malaysia.
Prime Minister Hasina last week had hinted that her arch-rival Zia could be tried for instigating deadly violence saying, "It will be logical to bring her (Zia) under the purview of law as the accused of giving order of the killings."
"But it is up to agencies enforcing the law to check this out and take necessary action," she had told the Parliament as her ruling Awami League lawmakers demanded legal actions against Zia.
At least 34 people have been killed in violence during anti-government protests that took place following BNP's call for a nationwide non-stop blockade from January 6 after authorities barred its chief Zia from joining a protest rally to mark the first anniversary of the last year's divisive January 5 polls.
The police headquarters, meanwhile, announced late yesterday a bounty of Taka 500,000 for specific information about the people who torched the bus at Jatrabari by hurling two petrol bombs.
The government earlier had announced Taka 100,000 as bounty for help in arresting the people involved in bomb attacks as part of a desperate effort to mobilise people's support in tracking down the arsonists.
Political divisions have sharply increased as manifested in the controversy that emerged yesterday when Hasina, who had gone to offer condolences on the sudden death of Zia's youngest son, was turned away from the gates of her archrival, in an apparent snub.
BNP boycotted last year's divisive polls over a dispute with the ruling Awami League on the elections-time government system.
The two leaders last met and talked in 2009 when Zia visited Hasina to offer condolence on the death of her nuclear scientist husband Wazed Mia.
BNP's senior standing committee member Rafiqul Islam Mia has told reporters that despite her personal grief, Zia has asked party-men to continue with the 36-hour shutdown.
Officials say over 7,000 activists of the BNP and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami have been arrested since the unrest began on January 5, marking the first anniversary of the controversial polls won by Hasina, Zia's arch-rival.
The unrest began after police confined Zia, a two-time premier, to her office in Dhaka ahead of the anniversary.
The 17-day house arrest of Zia was lifted on January 19, but the defiant ex-premier vowed to continue the nationwide blockade and preferred to stay put at her office.