Bangladesh ex-premier make common cause against government

April 29th, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, April 29 (IANS) Bangladesh’s former prime minister Khaleda Zia has demanded freedom for her arch adversary Sheikh Hasina, making common cause against the government that has jailed both of them on graft charges. This was the “principal demand” topping the 18 points made when Zia’s supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) met government emissaries for what has been billed as “informal” talks prior to the political dialogue slated for next month.

Zia had made this gesture last year as well, and found some response from Hasina’s Awami League (AL) despite years of political rivalry.

But for this posture against the army-backed government, the two have been known to be not even on talking terms.

The BNP and the AL have taken the identical stand that until the two former premiers are freed from jail, political dialogue, which the government wants to have for the elections promised this year-end, cannot succeed.

While the BNP leaders were meeting four advisers who are performing ministerial functions in the government headed by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, an AL team submitted to Ahmed’s office a memo signed by 2.5 million people seeking Hasina’s release, The Daily Star said Tuesday.

Other major BNP demands include withdrawal of the state of emergency at the earliest, scrapping of the emergency powers ordinance and emergency power rules, fair and credible parliamentary elections before any other polls as soon as possible and allowing judiciary, constitutional institutions, print and electronic media and the administration to work independently and neutrally.

The demands also include release of all political detainees including Khaleda’s sons, politician Tarique Rahman and businessman Arafat Rahman, who are held on charges of extortion.

The government has pursued cases against other relatives of Hasina and Zia as well. Besides Hasina, jailed last July, her Britain-based sister has been cited as respondent in a case of extortion. The wife and mother in law of Tarique Rahman are also facing charges.

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