Clad in her familiar pink chiffon sari and large sunglasses, imprisoned former prime minister Khaleda Zia came out of her special jail on Wednesday , free for at least six months, in a wheelchair to the cheers of a few thousand party leaders and activists.
The only thing she added extra to her attire was a pink hijab, and her spirit seemed to be lifted by this sudden relief from incarceration.
She got into a beige-coloured Honda car and was driven home which she had left 25 months ago to be locked up in a special prison prepared at the abandoned Dhaka Central Jail.
But she could not return home as a free person as she is fettered by various conditions.
She will not be able to take part in any political activities, nor can she go out of the country for any reason.
And she will have to re enter her jail cell after six months unless the government extends her stay out of the prison.
Meanwhile, Khaleda will be in home quarantine as advised by her personal medical board, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said quoting doctors.
After the release on Wednesday , Khaleda went straight to her Gulshan-1 residence 'Firoza' from where she last came out on February 8, 2018 and landed in jail in a graft case.
For the last one year, she had been admitted to a Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) prison cell for treatment. She was released at 4:12pm on Wednesday .
Before that, the prison authorities went to BSMMU at 2pm with her release order and talked to her.
Khaleda Zia's brother Shamim Iskandar, sister Selima Islam and son Tarique Rahman's wife Zobaida Rahman's elder sister Shahina Khan Zaman went to the hospital's prison cell to receive her.
Khaleda Zia left the hospital premises in a private car of Shamim Iskandar while his wife Kaniz Fatema accompanied her.
After getting into the car, Khaleda took off her blue facemask and used a yellow towel for a while. Then, Kaniz Fatema showed her something on the mobile phone and both were seen laughing.
Around 4:30pm, the vehicle carrying Khaleda Zia and her family members left the BSMMU premises.
Before this, several thousand leaders-activists and followers reached the BSMMU premises minutes before Khaleda's relatives arrived there. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir also reached there before 2pm.
But, most of the leaders and activists did not put on any protective gear against the coronavirus. They also did not obey the law enforcers' instruction to stay away from the main gate and keep a social distance.
The BNP secretary general also advised the activists not to get too close to Khaleda's car but they repeatedly refused to listen to the advice.
They joined the motorcade of Khaleda Zia despite repeated requests by Mirza Fakhrul. They chanted slogans hailing the released BNP chief.
Mirza Fakhrul told the media that the followers were overcome with emotions to get their leader back. "That is why they did not listen to our requests and made a crowd in spite of the corona fear."
At around 5:28pm, the motorcade reached Khaleda's residence.
Earlier, the decision to release Khaleda Zia for six months was made on Tuesday by an executive order of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
On Wednesday afternoon, the prison authority signed the final release order, and Shamim Iskandar was made the guarantor of the conditions to be followed by Khaleda Zia.
Before this, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed the release order in the morning, said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
Khaleda's prison odyssey in short
In February 2018, Khaleda was sentenced to five years in prison in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The jail term was extended by another five years when an appeal was lodged with the High Court.
In November that year, she filed a petition with the Appellate Division seeking acquittal.
Her lawyers, however, are yet to present the petition to the court.
The BNP chief has remained behind bars since the day she was sentenced.
Moreover, in October 2018, a special court sentenced her to a seven-year rigorous imprisonment in the Zia Charitable Trust case.
She was also fined Tk10 lakh, and another six-month jail term in case of defaulting on the fine.
The three other convicts of the case received the same punishment.
A month later, an appeal was filed with the High Court.
The court in April last year accepted the appeal for hearing. It suspended the fine and stayed the confiscation of her properties.
Also, the court asked officials concerned to submit case documents within two months. The case documents were sent to the court on June 20.
In July, the High Court dismissed Khaleda's bail petition.
She then submitted a bail petition to the Appellate Division, but the court dismissed it after hearing in December.
The Appellate Division at the time said Khaleda could be provided better treatment if she agreed.
The BNP chairperson again submitted a bail petition to the High Court, which the court rejected in February.
The court said Khaleda had to be provided treatment fast if she agreed and her medical board could include new physicians in the team if it wanted to do so.
Khaleda's family members had repeatedly been calling on the authorities to release her for treatment while her bail petition remained sub judice.
The Nationalist Lawyers' Forum also called on the government to release her under Article 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that empowers the government to remit or suspend the sentence of a convict.
Amnesty International hailed the decision of the interim release of Khaleda Zia and hoped she would be given unrestricted access to healthcare.