Freedom for Zia likely as Dhaka may ease Emergency curbs

June 13th, 2008 - 3:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 13 (IANS) Bangladesh’s military-backed government may not oppose the bail of detained former prime minister Khaleda Zia as it prepares to ease Emergency curbs to facilitate a political dialogue in the run up to the December elections. “We are coordinating everything. There is no scope to waste time. Highest efforts are being made,” Commerce Adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman told the media Thursday, adding that the government would weigh the “legal and humanitarian aspects” involved.

The Daily Star newspaper Friday called this the “crucial step forward” after the release of another former prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

While Hasina Thursday left for the US for medical treatment, Zia reiterated that she would stay on “among my people”.

She demanded, instead, that the same law that applied to Hasina be applied to her ailing sons - Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko.

Hasina spoke to Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed and other advisors (ministers) Wednesday, signalling a rapprochement and participation in the current dialogue by her Awami League.

Zia, however, kept the pressure on the government telling the media in the courtroom during one of her trials that “time will tell” if her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) would join the dialogue.

Zia is digging in and seeking to gain political mileage. The four-party alliance that she leads criticised Hasina for entering into “a deal”.

Zia’s chief political aide, Khandaker Delwar Hossain, general secretary of BNP who had only Wednesday welcomed Hasina’s release, a day later, criticised her talking to the government.

The government is, however, keen to see that the dialogue succeeds, as it is under pressure at home and from the international community to hold elections that are credible.

A high-powered committee formed to recommend amendments to the Emergency Power Rules, 2007, promulgated in January last year, had its first meeting Thursday.

New Age newspaper, quoting unnamed government sources, said the harsh provisions, including those on the restriction on bail, attachment of property of corruption suspects and punishment for submitting false wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission would be amended.

“The government is trying to consolidate an appropriate atmosphere for the elections and win people’s confidence… Indoor politics has already been allowed,” said Advisor Hossain Zillur Rahman who is coordinating the effort on behalf of the government.

The amended emergency rules would benefit many of around 200 high profile corruption suspects, observed officials involved in the anti-corruption drive that the government launched last year.

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