Bangladesh's ex-PMs fight government to be at home
Apr 20, 2007 - 1:54:27 PM

Dhaka, April 20 - With one former prime minister looking for 'alternative means' to return home and the other trying to delay her imminent exile to Saudi Arabia, the next four days are crucial for Bangladesh whose caretaker government is plotting to curb the political resurgence of Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.

While Sheikh Hasina, who has been charged with murder, is looking at 'alternative means' to return home from the US and defy the government's ban, Zia is reportedly 'playing for time' under different pleas, including the filing of a habeas corpus petition before the Dhaka High Court, to postpone her departure to Saudi Arabia.

Expressing its concern, the Dhaka High Court has asked the Bangladesh government if Zia was 'confined' to her home. It fixed Sunday as the next date of hearing and also asked the government counsel to convey 'our anxiety to the authorities concerned'.

The habeas corpus petition filed by a Bangladesh Nationalist Party - functionary has sought a court directive to ensure that the government does not force her out of the country.

Media reports said the government wanted Zia to leave, latest by Sunday, while she was seeking to stay on to know the fate of the petition filed by a functionary of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party -.

Under the law, any high court verdict provides scope for appeal to the country's highest court, which could again delay Zia's departure.

Zia, who has not been allowed to come out of her Dhaka Cantonment residence since April 2, has told those mediating between her and the authorities that she wants to meet senior party leaders before leaving the country.

New Age newspaper said Zia was 'trying to buy time' and that she and the 'government's military backers' were 'trying to outsmart each other'.

While the government has said that Hasina's return could jeopardise peace and stability in the country, it has been on the defensive with regard to Zia, denying that she is at all confined to her home, even as it works formalities with the Saudi Arabian embassy to send her to Jeddah.

While this battle was going on at the political and court levels in Dhaka, Hasina was reportedly meeting British MPs in London to apprise them of the situation in Bangladesh, hoping to bring international pressure on the government.

She is scheduled to return home on a British Airways flight from London Sunday night and has said she would defy the ban and is ready to be detained by the government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed.

'It is my constitutional right as a citizen,' Hasina, who has been in Florida, told BBC Bangla Service and other media.

To ensure that the Awami League leader doesn't come back, the government has 'requested' various international airlines, including British Airways, not to allow Hasina to board the Dhaka-bound flight.

If she does get to board the British Airways flight Sunday, she would reach Dhaka at 5.45 a.m. Monday.

She reached London Thursday from Washington, after being seen off by her son Sajeeb Wajed Joy and Awami League leaders and workers at Dulles International Airport.

The government Wednesday slapped a ban on her return, saying her arrival might disrupt the country's law and order and put the national security and economy in grave peril.

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