Government denies 'deal', but Zia is ready to fly
Apr 18, 2007 - 1:47:51 PM

Dhaka, April 18 - Former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia is 'packed up and ready to fly out', media reports said Wednesday even as influential advisers to the caretaker government denied plans to push her and rival Sheikh Hasina out of the country.

Though reports said the government was working out the 'formalities' of sending Zia over to Saudi Arabia and that it would take five to six days as her stay was expected to be 'prolonged', two government advisors said there were no such plans.

'There is no plan or pressure from the government side to send them abroad,' M.A. Matin, communications adviser and the key man overseeing the government's anti-corruption drive of the government, said Tuesday night.

'You know, we are bringing many reforms in the political system but till this moment there have been no discussion or decision under the reform programme on whether the two leaders will stay home or go abroad,' Matin said when asked about the 'fate' of former prime ministers Zia and Hasina.

Hasina, who has been charged with extortion and murder, is currently in the US amid rising speculation over whether she would ever be allowed to come back.

Matina also said the government had no plan to debar any political leaders from going abroad.

Law and Information Adviser Mainul Hosein was also quoted by The Daily Star as saying: 'There is no initiative from the government to send any political leader abroad.

'Political reforms are going on in the country, and if anybody wants to leave the country to avoid being jailed or punished, that is something different,' he said.

Zia was reported to be busy packing. A caretaker, who said three suitcases were ready, was apparently told by Zia to 'look after yourself and the house while we are away'.

A part of the retinue was being sent 'on leave', reports said.

Zia reportedly agreed to leave the country along with her two sons early Tuesday. The authorities released her younger son Arafat Rahman within 24 hours of picking him up, ostensibly as part of the deal.

'A process is reportedly on for the release of her elder son Tareq Rahman from jail as per a 'understanding',' The Daily Star said.

The newspaper said the military-backed caretaker government had initiated moves to complete the formalities necessary for sending the former prime minister and BNP chairperson abroad.

'She - may leave the country at any time in the next few days... The authorities will not make any delay in sending the former prime minister along with her family members to Saudi Arabia,' said a source said.

Media has been camping at the Zia International Airport - in anticipation of Zia's departure.

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