KHALEDA ZIA has been in and out of the courts for over a decade. She has been charged in 37 different cases, most concerning corruption or abuse of power during her two stints as prime minister, in 1991-96 and 2001-06. But the verdict reached on February 8th was momentous.
It was Mrs Zia’s first conviction, for stealing cash in 1991 from a trust for orphans founded in memory of her late husband, Ziaur Rahman, a coup leader who became president before being killed in a coup himself. Mrs Zia, who leads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), currently in opposition, was sentenced to five years in jail. Although she may yet be freed pending appeals to the High Court and the Supreme Court, her fate appears sealed.
The verdict formalises the collapse of Bangladesh’s two-party system and the demise of the Zia dynasty. The BNP and the Awami League (AL), the party currently in power, used to alternate in government. Mrs Zia and Sheikh...