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Sheikh Hasina arrives in Dhaka

The former Bangladesh PM arrives in Dhaka, pledging to fight for restoration of democracy, reports Anirban Choudhury.

world Updated: May 07, 2007 23:51 IST
Anirban Choudhury
Anirban Choudhury

Sheikh Hasina, former Prime Minister, arrived at the Dhaka International airport this afternoon to face the toughest political battle in her life. In doing so she also threw a formidable challenge to the military backed interim government which made all attempts to prevent her from entering the country.

She looked resolute and firm. "They (the government) will make a mistake if they try to arrest me or place me under house arrest", she said. She turned emotional as she told reporters how she felt about her great return to the homeland. There is justification of her confidence. She has already been able to garner support from the European Union and the Common Wealth during her extended stay in London. If her stance at the airport is anything to go by, Bangladesh is heading for another political show down.

Her strategy is simple, force the interim government to call an early elections. The time is ripe for her. Her chief political opponent, Begum Khaleda Zia is bogged with internal strife within her Bangladesh nationalist party. Coupled with this, Zia has all her major leaders, including his all powerful son Tareq Rahman jailed on corruption charges.

More importantly, there has been an erosion of the support base of the interim government. It acted too much in a haste to jeopardize the political career of the two Begums who have mattered a lot to the Bangaldeshis for the past two decades. It suffered the first blow when it could not force Sheikh Hasina stay away from the country. The second blow came from the High Court on Monday when it issued a ruling seeking an explanation from the government why Khaleda Zia is not being allowed to move freely.

It is true that both the two Begums could not really provide good governance to the impoverished nation. "We live with poverty, cyclone and death. But these two are no better", said Yasin Chowdhury a trader of Kawran Bazar in Dhaka. But it is also true that the Bangladeshis can't live without them. One's father was killed by betrayers, the husband of another suffered death at the hands of assassins. The people are too much emotionally involved to ignore them.

The government's main task is to preserve its credibility and continue its war against corruption which has received accolades from all the quarters. To do that it has to seriously pursue the corruption charges it brought against Hasina. If she is arrested it will mean more political mileage for her. If Hasina's tone at the airport is to be believed it is nothing but preparation for a head on collision.

Observors feel the Bangladesh is once again on the threshold of a critical phase. Haroon Habib, a senior Journalist says, "The next few months will be very crucial for the country. We have to get over the crisis. It has been continuing for too long."

Will there be bloody battles once again ? Will the military take over the administration? Can the interim government pursue the cleansing operations in an effective way? There are too many unanswered questions.

First Published: May 07, 2007 09:25 IST