Hasina may go abroad for treatment, Zia unwilling

June 7th, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 7 (IANS) The health conditions of Bangladesh’s jailed former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, and the government’s plans to send them abroad for treatment, have once again triggered political speculation. Their being sent out could mean revival of the “minus two formula” of the caretaker government of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed. The government is perceived to be keen to keep them out of the political arena and especially this December’s elections.

The development comes amidst an ongoing political dialogue the government is holding to pave the way for the December elections. It is being boycotted by the two leaders who want unconditional release from jail.

As they are on trial facing serious charges, it is a difficult call for the government.

The ‘formula’, that failed last year, is being “apparently revived” by the government that has initiated the process of sending them out, The Daily Star newspaper said Saturday.

Both Hasina and Zia and the latter’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko were examined by government-appointed medical boards Thursday and Friday.

While Hasina, who has been keen to go to the US where her son Sajib Joy has made arrangements, could go, as also Koko, who is seriously ailing, Zia herself is not keen to leave the country for fear of being debarred from returning home.

Unlike her political rival Hasina, 61, who has collapsed in the courtroom and has wanted to leave for the US, Zia, 62, has not been vocal about her health condition.

But the medical boards have found that all three need to go for specialised treatment.

There is a history to the ‘formula.’

In April last year, the caretaker government sought to bar Hasina from returning from the US. The British Airways flight that was to fly her home from London was told not to take her on board. The airline, having large business in Bangladesh, complied, although she had all documents and a boarding pass.

Hasina could return home only after a week-long campaign by British parliamentarians and human rights bodies.

Simultaneously, Zia was told that she could leave for Saudi Arabia with most of her family members. She agreed initially, then prevaricated and conveyed her lack of willingness to the Saudi royalty and finally backed out.

After the ‘formula’ failure, the government implicated the two women leaders in corruption cases, added their names to police complaints and detained them.

While Hasina has fluctuating blood pressure, an ailment and an ear damaged during a bomb attack on her in 2004, Zia is known to suffer from arthritis.

All three medical boards might formally submit their reports Monday, the newspaper said.

If finally the two top political leaders go abroad for treatment, Sheikh Hasina will stay in London with her sister for a while and then will fly to the US, sources in her family said.

BNP sources said the detained party chairperson however remains rigid on her earlier stance of not leaving the country. She, however, wants to send Koko abroad for treatment, as he is suffering from numerous ailments.

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