Vol. 5 Num 1022 Tue. April 17, 2007  
Front Page

Khaleda agrees to fly out with Arafat
Tarique may join them later

After a prolonged suspense, former prime minister and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia finally agreed to leave the country under tremendous pressure from the military backed caretaker government and on condition that her sons will also be allowed to join her.

"Her younger son Arafat Rahman will be going with her and the elder son Trique Rahman will join them later on," a highly placed source in the government told The Daily Star last night on condition of anonymity.

"She will be leaving the country for Saudi Arabia in a couple of days. Initially she will be leaving with a one-month visa to perform umrah and her permanent residence there will be finalised upon reaching the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the source said.

"Everything has been only the formalities including getting a visa remain to be completed, which might be completed in a day," the source added.

Replying to a question, he said Arafat Rahman was not shown arrested officially because a process was on to persuade Khaleda to leave the country. "She was determined not to leave the country, but finally agreed when her family members including her younger brother Major (retd) Syeed Iskandar persuaded her to agree to leave yesterday evening."

The decision to produce Arafat Rahman before a court last evening was dropped after Khaleda Zia had agreed to leave the country. Arafat was picked up by the joint forces late night on Sunday.

It was learnt that Arafat was taken to his mother's Moinul Hossain Road residence in Dhaka Cantonment immediately after Khaleda agreed to leave the country last evening. Later at night he was reportedly released. He was taken away by the joint forces from the same house on Sunday.

Khaleda, however, bargained for Trique Rahman's release and asked the authorities concerned to allow him to go with her, but the authorities told her that he might be sent to Saudi Arabia very soon for 'treatment'.

Another highly placed source said the Saudi government agreed to play host to Khaleda and her family if she leaves Bangladesh willingly. "The message was conveyed to the Saudi government through its embassy in Dhaka that she agreed to leave the country," he added.

Initially, she will be staying in a government house in Saudi Arabia and later will be provided with proper accommodations so that she can live there with her two sons, their wives, and her three grandchildren.

Since the declaration of the state of emergency on January 11 and the subsequent assumption of power by the military backed caretaker government headed by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, sending of the two chiefs of major political parties Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina to exiles has been a much talked about issue.

The highly placed source also confirmed that Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, who is now on a private visit to the USA, finally will not be allowed to return home.

Hasina left for the US on March 15. At that time, it was the common feeling that Hasina left the country grudgingly under pressure from the government.

Hasina wanted to return on April 14 to face an extortion charge, but the government reportedly requested her to delay her return.

"Although the authorities asked Hasina not to come before the scheduled date on April 23, now they will ask her not to return at all," the source said.

Sources said the authorities succeeded in persuading Hasina to leave the country tactfully, but it took them a very long time to persuade Khaleda to do the same.

Khaleda had been adamant about not leaving the country even after the arrest of her elder son Tarique Rahman on March 8.

But the government's latest move to pick up her younger son Arafat Rahman and the thought of further possible consequences made her agree to leave the country, according to sources.