Ailing Hasina set to go abroad

June 11th, 2008 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 11 (IANS) As former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina readies to leave Bangladesh Thursday for medical treatment abroad, the Awami League (AL) that she heads has said it would contest the December parliamentary poll under her leadership. While this indicated a possible rapprochement with the caretaker government that has facilitated her freedom and foreign travel, albeit under foreign and domestic pressures, there was no word if the AL, the country’s oldest party, would join the ongoing political dialogue.

The interim government of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed Tuesday undertook the necessary procedures and documentations to pave the way for Hasina’s departure and would issue a formal statement prior to her release from a special jail after 11 months, media reports said.

Hasina added a Canadian visa to the US and British visas on her passport on Tuesday. There were conflicting reports on whether she would board a special Singapore Airlines flight arranged for her or a British Airways flight to London en route to Boston, The Daily Star newspaper said.

She was recommended “better treatment” by a government-appointed medical board for her fluctuating blood pressure, failing vision in one eye and a damaged ear.

Indicating a possible political rapprochement leading to Hasina’s impending freedom, the AL’s presidium member Tofail Ahmed on Tuesday said that the party would be led by her and run according to her directives while she is abroad.

AL’s acting general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam added that the party would take part in the December elections in order to become the next democratic government.

The party official said that the AL must take the “necessary decisions that will help the polity to break through the current political stalemate”.

He, however, did not elaborate further on what particular decisions would be taken, New Age newspaper said.

The major parties, including AL, former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) have so far boycotted the dialogue and warned that no election in Bangladesh could be credible without them.

Meanwhile, Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed himself led the government’s team at the current political dialogue’s tenth round.

Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), a four-party alliance that shared power with Zia in 2001-06, demanded that atheists and apostates be kept out of the elections.

In doing so, the alliance hit back at the campaign by the AL and several Left and left-of centre parties that the Islamists, including the JeI, be disqualified from the elections because of the alleged participation of many of their leaders in the killing of unarmed civilians in 1971, at the behest of the erstwhile East Pakistan regime.

The prospect of her political rival’s freedom has made her another jailed former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, cry foul.

While she has refused to leave the country for medical treatment, she said Tuesday that the same law that governed Hasina’s freedom and departure should operate in the case of her jailed and ailing sons, Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko.

The government has yet to decide on the permission sought by Arafat to leave for Bangkok. A medical team has recommended “better treatment” for him too.

A Dhaka court has rejected the bail plea of Zia’s elder son, Tarique, who has been ailing while in detention for over a year.

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