Bangladesh ex-PM departs for medical treatment in US

Political analysts said Hasina's freedom, temporary though it may be, had moved the Awami League and the military-backed government towards a "win-win situation" that would help push the political process forward.

Bangladesh ex-PM departs for medical treatment in US
Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, released from jail on parole, left Dhaka on Thursday for the United States for medical treatment.

She boarded a British Airways flight to London en route to the United States, officials at the airport said.

Before leaving, Hasina briefly met senior leaders of her Awami League political party at the airport and asked them to remain united in her absence.

"We assured her of the party's unity," Syed Ashraful Islam, general secretary of Awami League, told reporters. He said Hasina also asked them to prepare for a parliamentary election due in December.

Political analysts said Hasina's freedom, temporary though it may be, had moved the Awami League and the military-backed government towards a "win-win situation" that would help push the political process forward.

"People would now hope the government might offer a similar olive branch to Hasina's rival Begum Khaleda Zia and release her from detention," said Professor Ataur Rahman Khan, president of the Bangladesh Political Science Association.

"The government is trying to (say) that the judicial process and politics can continue side by side, and the parties may buy it in good faith," he told Reuters on Thursday.

Special courts prosecuting Hasina for alleged corruption ruled on Monday the trials could continue in her absence, after a government-appointed medical board suggested she be sent abroad immediately.

Hasina has been suffering from high blood pressure, eye problems and hearing impairment caused by grenade blasts at a rally she addressed in Dhaka in August 2004, which killed 23 people.

The interim government, headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed, arrested Hasina in July last year for alleged corruption, but it granted her an eight-week parole on Wednesday for treatment abroad.

Uncertainties loom

"But despite an offer of goodwill (by the government), uncertainties loom large," political analyst Ataur said, adding "what or how much the government can do for the fellow former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia will be a major decider."

Khaleda, also in detention since last September on charges of corruption, has rejected advice by a separate medical board to go abroad for treatment.

But she has asked the government to let her ailing sons, Tareque Rahman and Arafat Rahmanm, travel abroad for treatment.

Some analysts believe once Hasina leaves she will not be allowed back, and that if Khaleda left the country that would also be her fate.

That could enable the military-backed interim government to re-shape Bangladesh's politics ahead of nationwide polls in December.

However, Hasina told her party leaders and four advisers to the interim government late on Wednesday that she would return immediately after the treatment to actively take part in politics.

She also wants to contest a parliamentary election planned for December, said Ashraful, the Awami general secretary.

Retired Major-General Syed Mohammad Ibrahim, a defence and political analyst, told Reuters Hasina's release and permission to go abroad was a "positive response by the government to meet a challenging political situation".

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Haziran 2008, 11:32
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