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Bangladesh to review moves of keeping Zia, Hasina abroad

A cabinet meeting later in the day may take a final decision on the two leaders.
By HT Correspondent | PTI, Dhaka
UPDATED ON APR 25, 2007 03:50 PM IST

The military-backed interim Government in Bangladesh is expected to review its earlier plans of keeping former Prime Ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina outside the country while carrying out electoral reforms after both the leaders stood firm against the moves.

The interim cabinet with chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed was expected to join a meeting later on Wednesday to revise its earlier plan as Hasina, now in London, challenged in court the temporary ban on her homecoming, while Zia reportedly took a firm stand against going into "exile" under an earlier negotiated deal with the caretaker administration, the 'Prothom Alo' daily said.

Official sources, however, said difficulties in issuance of visa delayed Zia's scheduled departure for Saudi Arabia as the kingdom reportedly was in a dilemma on the status or type of the visa to be issued for a longer stay of the high-profile woman in their land.

Saudi authorities also needed Zia to "testify to the fact that she would indeed be entering the kingdom of her own free will".

An adviser of the interim cabinet preferring anonymity told the newspaper that the government earlier planned to carry out reforms "cleaning politics" temporarily keeping the two leaders outside the country as "we did not want them to wander in court premises to face corruption and other charges".

Meanwhile, Hasina's lawyers have termed as "unconstitutional" the ban on her return home as she was denied a boarding pass by British Airways authorities three days ago following a request from the caretaker government in Dhaka.

The High Court asked the counsels to seek formal permission to file the petition tomorrow and move it in court Sunday as they sought the court intervention to "remove all the hurdles" on her return home.

Hasina said she wanted return home immediately to face a "murder charge" filed by fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of the BNP-led four-party combine, alleging her involvement in the killing of six of their workers in a violent street fight between rival activists in October last year.

The report said the cabinet meeting later on Wednesday could take a final decision on the two leaders.

Zia and Hasina have held power alternately since 1991 when democracy was restored with the ouster of former military dictator HM Ershad in a mass upheaval after nine years of rule.

But the two women leaders of the Muslim majority Bangladesh were largely blamed for failure to institutionalise democracy because of their longstanding mutual dislike.

The protracted conflicts between rival activists resulted in the declaration of the state of emergency on January 11 this year when the military backed interim government took over and launched massive campaigns against corruption as well as for political reforms to "clean politics".

The campaigns sent over 60 high profile politicians and influential businessmen including Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman.

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