Zia makes younger brother BNP vice chief
Apr 30, 2007 - 9:02:12 PM

Dhaka, April 30 - Former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia Monday appointed her younger brother vice president of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party -, consolidating the family's hold on it amid reports of rumblings within its ranks.

Syed Mohammed Iskandar, a retired army major, is considered the closest to her after her jailed elder son, Tareq Rahman.

Iskander himself made the announcement saying this new responsibility had been given to him 'a few days earlier', said Star Online.

The reference to the timing of the appointment appeared to be the period when Zia was under pressure to enter into a 'deal' with the government and leave for Saudi Arabia with most of her family members for what was speculated as exile.

Zia, 61, has a serious knee problem and was ailing last week. Her health could be another reason for Iskandar's appointment, besides the need to control affairs of the party that her husband, late president Ziaur Rahman founded.

Zia has been the undisputed leader of the BNP since Rahman was assassinated in a coup d'etat in May 1981.

Iskander is widely credited with being the main conduit between serving army top brass and Zia and the party. He was reported to have influenced two decisions by President Iajuddin Ahmed to deploy armed forces in aid of the civil authority last December during the run-up to the elections that were eventually postponed.

He was one of the very few who had access to Zia when she was reportedly 'confined' at home with security tightened and people, particularly the BNP leaders, not allowed to see her.

The appointment was expected in that another key figure close to Zia, Brigadier - Hannan Shah, had told BBC Bengali Service earlier this month that she was 'annoyed' at the party brass that had failed to express solidarity with her and had instead engaged in closed-door machinations.

Shah told the BBC that he was likely to be the BNP's secretary general. He was pilloried by the party brass that went into a huddle around the present secretary general, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, and displayed full faith in Zia's leadership.

Iskander's was the first house Zia visited for a family get-together once she was free to move around when the government withdrew restrictions on her movements and let it be known that she was not being exiled.

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