Hasina vows to return home, Zia's exit being finalised
Apr 19, 2007 - 11:37:04 AM

Dhaka, April 19 - While the Bangladesh government firms up plans for former prime minister Khaleda Zia's departure and to ensure that the other former premier doesn't return home, Sheikh Hasina has announced that she plans to defy authorities and fly back from the US as scheduled Monday.

The Awami League leader, who has been charged with murder and faces arrest if she returns, will be back home April 23, her Florida-based son Sajib Wajed Joy told The Daily Star over telephone.

'It is an interference with my citizen's right. It will not carry honour to the country,' Hasina was quoted as saying by Abdus Sobhan Golap, an aide who is with her in Florida.

Golap, assistant secretary of the Awami League's central sub-committee on international affairs, told the New Age newspaper that she was ready to face the charges of murder and extortion the caretaker government has brought against her.

The government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed retaliated by warning action against her, asking the media to 'black out' her views, and firming up arrangements with different airlines that fly to and from Dhaka to not let her board their aircraft.

Whether or not international airlines heed Dhaka's request is yet to be seen. But the government has also gone ahead and issued formal orders to immigration authorities at all land and airports to block her entry.

Law Adviser Mainul Hosein Wednesday night said that 'legal measures will have to be taken against her' in case she returned.

Talking to the BBC Bangla Service, he said the government has already requested different airlines not to carry her home.

'Though there are criminal cases against her, we don't want a leader of her stature to be in trouble,' he added.

The government's Press Information Department - and 'other agencies' have instructed all newspapers not to carry any comment of Sheikh Hasina.

An SMS received from an army major said: 'You are requested not to telecast/print any views/comments of Sheikh Hasina from today till further order.'

The Daily Star noted that Hasina's comment on the government's ban on her return was aired by BBC Bangla Service and heard all over Bangladesh.

There were no editorial comments on the government's sweeping action. But some sections protested the PID press note warning the media against spreading 'misinformation' and causing 'confusion'.

The refrain was that the media's role in highlighting the government's performance and achievements in the last 13 weeks had been appreciated by Ahmed and the media's role also included pointing out 'flaws and mistakes'.

Meanwhile, diplomatic formalities were being finalised with the Saudi Arabian embassy in Dhaka for the departure of immediate past prime minister Khaleda Zia, readying to leave the country as per a deal.

Before leaving, Zia is expected to visit her elder son Tareq Rahman, who is in jail on charge of extortion and whose trial is to begin shortly.

Newspapers Thursday showed Tareq's wife Zobeida leaving the jail after meeting him.

Though there was pressure on Zobeida to leave the country with her mother-in-law, she and her daughter were likely to join Zia only after Tareq is released from prison, informed sources said.

The sources said Zia would leave the country with her younger son Arafat Rahman Coco, his wife and his two daughters. Arafat had been held for a day last weekend to secure the 'deal'.

Khaleda Zia's residence in Dhaka Cantonment, which was donated to her by the erstwhile government following the assassination of late president Ziaur Rahman in 1981, would be handed over to a caretaker to be appointed by the Cantonment Board until the current government decides on its next course of action.

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