Bangladesh: Former PM in critical condition, transferred to ICU

Nov 25, 2021:  Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia, 73, has been admitted to the ICU in critical condition.

Security officials have canceled the leave of her staff. So that no one spreads rumors about the physical condition of BNP President Begum Khaleda Zia on social media.

Supporters of Bangladesh’s main opposition party have staged protests across the country, demanding that their jailed leader be allowed to travel abroad for immediate medical treatment. Khaleda Zia, a 76-year-old leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and a key rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is serving a 10-year sentence for corruption.

The court barred her from traveling abroad after she was convicted of corruption three years ago – a sentence the BNP says was politically motivated. The opposition leader was admitted to the critical care unit of a private hospital in the capital, Dhaka, earlier this month after her condition “deteriorated significantly”.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhr-ul-Islam Alamgir said on Tuesday that there was no further treatment for Zia in Bangladesh’s healthcare system and she needed immediate treatment abroad.

According to her personal physician, Dr. AZM Zahid Hussain, Zia, the three-time South Asian prime minister, suffers from liver disease, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, as well as heart disease.

Thousands of opposition activists have staged multiple demonstrations, rallies and hunger strikes to press home their demands, with Secretary-General Alamgir warning of waging a campaign seeking the fall of the Hasina led-government if Zia is not allowed to travel.

The government has directed the police to remain on “red alert” across the country so that no individuals can create “chaos and unwanted situation”.

Prime Minister Hasina seemed unmoved by the demands, saying that the law of the land would decide whether Zia would be allowed to go abroad.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the government temporarily released Zia from prison in March last year at the request of her family. But she still can’t leave Bangladesh. Law Minister Anisul Haq said that there was no lack of sympathy for Zia in the government.

But BNP leaders and activists strongly believe Zia is a victim of Prime Minister Hasina’s “personal vengeance”.

The two have been dubbed the “Battling Begums” (Begum is a South Asian term that refers to a Muslim woman of high rank) due to their vicious political rivalry, as they alternated power with metronomic regularity since 1991 when the Zia-led BNP came to power following the first elections after nearly a decade of military rule.

The Hasina-led Awami League (AL) got the better of the BNP in 1996. But Zia made a comeback in 2001.

The AL has not lost an election since coming to power in 2008. Subsequent elections, however, have been marred by opposition boycotts and accusations of widespread vote-rigging.

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