A COURT in eastern Bangladesh has issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia over an arson attack during an anti-government protest two years ago.

Magistrate Joynab Begum issued orders in a packed courtroom in Comilla district against Zia and 48 other opposition activists after a police official pressed charges against them.

The official said authorities found Zia and the others responsible for the attack on a bus that killed eight people in 2015.

It is unlikely that Zia would be arrested, as she has often been able to obtain legal protection from the High Court against arrest or harassment.

There was no immediate reaction from her Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

A prosecution lawyer said the order would ask the court to indict the defendants.

Zia faces numerous such cases involving violence.

Her party says they are politically motivated, but authorities have rejected the claims.

The cases against Zia are crucial because if she is found guilty, she would be ineligible to contest a national election later this year.