Zia bargains for son as government readies to release her


Dhaka : Getting ready for freedom after 11 months of detention, Bangladesh’s former prime minister Khaleda Zia is bargaining for ailing son Tarique Rahman’s freedom with the interim government that plans to release her “as early as possible”.

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Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, who performs prime ministerial functions, said Wednesday his administration was initiating efforts to release Zia “as early as possible”.

“The procedure to release the detained BNP chairperson through a normal process is going on. The government is considering the process as early as possible,” Ahmed was quoted as saying by Bdnews24.com in the port city of Chittagong where he held his cabinet meeting.

New Age newspaper reported “swirling confusion” over Zia’s release as she is reportedly demanding release on bail and without any preconditions.

Zia, who has been under detention on graft charges, will also not formally seek bail, which is required under the law. She refused to register herself as a voter while in jail and allowed the last date to lapse this week.

Behind these moves, media reports say, is the closed-door bargaining she is doing with the interim government – which is keen to push the election process – to ensure the release of her elder son Tarique, who was the first major politico to be nabbed in March last year and is seriously ill.

Zia was able to get her younger businessman-son Arafat Rahman freed on parole. He is now in Thailand on medical treatment.

Political commentators have said that Tarique is crucial to the interim regime’s anti-graft drive.

Ahmed dismissed speculation Wednesday that his government was going slow on graft in order to push the poll process.

“People may think so, but the accused people are being tried through the legal process. The government is taking a tough line on corruption, but its main aim is holding a free and fair election. The government wants an election with the participation of all political parties, and it is working with the big picture in mind,” he said.

The four-party alliance that Zia leads has given an “ultimatum” to the government for her release that ended Wednesday. It is expected to decide its course of action shortly, media reports said.