Jailed Hasina’s release gets Dhaka’s political dialogue moving

June 12th, 2008 - 11:26 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 12 (IANS) The release from jail of former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has got going the government’s political dialogue preparatory to parliamentary elections promised for December. Released to rapturous welcome on Wednesday from detention after 11 months, Hasina was quick to call for early elections. But she spoke on phone to Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, who is heading the country’s caretaker government.

She also met four advisors (ministers) of the government who are involved with the dialogue that has completed ten rounds with different political parties and groupings.

Hasina was scheduled to leave Thursday for the US for medical treatment, the principal reason for her ‘temporary’ release for eight weeks.

Hasina’s arch rival and another jailed former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, conveyed her ’satisfaction’ at this, but demanded that her ailing and detained sons, Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko, be also given similar treatment.

The government has said it would ‘prioritise’ its actions on this score, The Daily Star said Thursday.

Analysts said her release and rapprochement with the government were a move forward for the “free, fair and credible” elections that the world community has been seeking.

Clear, and repeated, messages on this count have been delivered to the caretaker government by the US, the UK, the European Union and a large number of donor agencies and banks.

The US, in particular, has warned of political instability if the polls are not held on time. This would keep investors, both foreign and domestic, away from Bangladesh, it has said.

The general elections were called off amidst months of political turmoil in January last year and the present regime took office along with imposition of a national emergency.

The measure earned the silent approval of the world community but saw the situation slipping into a bloody chaos. However, there were demands for resuming political dialogue and holding elections within months.

The last 14 months have witnessed a massive drive against corruption by the military-backed government under which Hasina, Zia and 200-plus former ministers, lawmakers and officials have been detained and put on trial.

Hasina’s release comes after weeks of tussle between a government determined to conduct political dialogue, while continuing with the prosecution of the politicians.

When major political parties boycotted the talks and threatened agitation, the government last week arrested close to 2,000 political workers.

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