Khaleda Zia to go into exile
BANGLADESH: Bangladesh's last prime minister Khaleda Zia is
poised to go into exile under pressure from the military-backed
government, officials told media Tuesday, in return for her son's
release from custody.
Reports in all the main papers said authorities, who have been waging
a major crackdown on graft in a bid to clean up the political system,
had agreed to free Zia's son Arafat Rahman Coco in exchange for her
He was arrested on Sunday as part of the crackdown and the reports
said he was freed overnight in a deal which - if confirmed - would
reshape politics in the South Asian country, which is under emergency
Zia, who was prime minister until her five-year term ended in
October, has been under virtual house arrest since last week.
The Star newspaper said Zia, who heads the Bangladesh Nationalist
Party (BNP), "will be leaving the country for Saudi Arabia in a couple
"Initially, she will be leaving with a one-month visa to perform
umrah (a pilgrimage) and her permanent residence there will be finalised
upon reaching the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," it said, quoting a top
Quoting another highly placed source, the Star said the Saudi
government had agreed to host Zia, 61, and her family if she left
"The message was conveyed to Saudi Arabia through its embassy in
Dhaka that she agreed to leave the country," it quoted the source as
Large numbers of journalists gathered at Dhaka's main airport Monday
night in anticipation of Zia's departure.
At the heart of the political turmoil was Zia's BNP and the
opposition Awami League led by her arch rival Sheikh Hasina Wajed, also
a former premier.
Hasina, 60, is currently on holiday in the United States and has
already been charged in absentia with extortion and the murder of four
political activists last October. Authorities have warned she faces
arrest if she dares to return home.
Meanwhile Hasina will return to her country early next week, she said
on Monday, dismissing as "false and fake" murder and corruption charges
brought against her in Dhaka.
Police charged Hasina and more than 50 others with murder on April
11, in connection to the deaths of 10 people in Dhaka political violence
"Of course, I'll go back. I'll go back to my people," she told
Reuters by telephone in Washington, where she was visiting her son and
"All are false and fake cases, I know," Hasina said. She said she
would leave Washington for London on Wednesday and intended to depart
for Dhaka at the weekend, depending on flights and meetings in Britain.
"They can do whatever they like, but I know my conscience is clear, I
haven't done anything wrong, and I haven't committed any crimes," Hasina
She said she did not fear detention or physical harm.
"They filed cases and more cases maybe just to punish me," added the
60-year-old leader of the Awami League, one of her country's biggest
The murder charges filed last week were mostly brought against
members of the Awami League and several leaders of the rival
Police said the murder charges were pressed after months of
investigation into two separate cases filed by the rival groups
involving the killing of 10 people in Dhaka on Oct. 28.
A 14-party alliance led by the Awami League accused Jamaat of
starting the violence resulting in the deaths, while Jamaat, in a
separate complaint to police, accused the Awamis.
A court will formally hear the charges on April 22.
Dhaka, Tuesday, AFP, Reuters