January 25, 2015 1:33:48 pm
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who had gone to offer condolences on the sudden death of opposition leader Khaleda Zia’s youngest son, was turned away from the gates of her archrival, in an apparent snub.
The premier was left waiting on Zia’s doorstep, only to be told later that the grieving mother of Arafat Rahman Koko – who died of a heart attack in Malaysia on Saturday – was “put to sleep by doctors”.
Shameem Iskander, younger brother of the BNP chief, along with two others left early on Sunday for Malaysia to bring the body of the self-exiled 45-year-old Koko.
In live footages, local television channels showed Hasina’s motorcades, escorted by high security, standing in front of Zia’s office in the upmarket Gulshan district in Dhaka.
Zia, 69, and Hasina, 67, are known as the ‘Battling Begums’ for their bitter rivalry that has poisoned Bangladeshi politics for nearly three decades.
“She became unwell after hearing the tragic death of her son. We gave her medicine and she went to sleep. We’ve requested the Prime Minister to come at another time as she was asleep,” Zia’s private secretary Shimul Biswas said.
Earlier, Khaleda’s Special Aide Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas had told reporters that the doctors had sedated the BNP chief and that Khaleda will not be able to meet the prime minister.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Zia said that the former Prime Minister thanked Hasina for the gesture.
However, Hasina’s aides reacted sharply to the apparent snub, calling the behaviour “inhumane”.
“She broke all protocols. She came here as the prime minister, a leader and as a mother to console a mother who had lost her son. She stood there for five minutes but she was not allowed to enter,” said Hasina’s Information Affairs Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury.
The two leaders last met in 2009 when Zia visited Hasina after the death of Hasina’s her husband Wazed Mia.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief has been spearheading a massive anti-government campaign enforcing a violent nationwide blockade since January 6, after she was confined to her Gulshan office and kept away from joining a protest rally to mark the first anniversary of the last year’s divisive January 5 elections.
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