Bangladesh improves medical facilities for jailed Hasina, Zia

June 6th, 2008 - 6:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 6 (IANS) Bangladesh’s caretaker government has extended an olive branch to jailed former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia by conceding to their demands for better medical facilities in an apparent effort to ensure the success of the ongoing political dialogue. The interim government has called for discussions with all political parties ahead of the general elections, which are due in December.

The health ministry formed two separate medical boards for Hasina and her rival Zia’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko, following complaints made to court and public outcry.

Media reports said Friday that this was a preparation for their release, on bail or on parole, and being sent abroad for medical treatment.

The boards examined Hasina in the special jail where she is lodged and Koko at a hospital.

There was also a move to form a board for Zia, but this might take a day or two, government sources told The Daily Star newspaper.

Quoting different, but unnamed sources, the newspaper said formation of the medical boards was the government’s bid to send the two party chiefs abroad to pave the way for a successful dialogue with participation of the two parties.

The authorities held unofficial talks with the two leaders at various levels at special jails in the last few weeks, the sources said.

Their visits to the private Square Hospital, in the absence of adequate medical facilities in jail, also came in handy to support their demands, media reports had said last week.

Hasina, 61, has had fluctuating blood pressure, an eye problem and an ear damaged during a bomb blast in 2004. She has collapsed in the courtroom more than once.

She has for long complained of poor facilities and asked to be sent to the US, where her son Sajib Joy has reportedly made arrangements.

Zia, 62, has also had arthritis problems. She hugged Koko during a court trial last Monday, complaining to the judge that Koko had been hale and hearty, but had fallen seriously ill in jail, saying: “My whole family has been ruined.”

Her elder son Tarique Rahman too has been in jail on graft charges.

Both the boards found Hasina and Koko suffering from various aliments, the newspaper said, adding that the government would take a decision on the VIP prisoners “within several days”.

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