• Monday, April 22, 2024

BANGLADESH

Doctors warn Bangladesh’s Zia at ‘high risk’ of dying

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

BANGLADESHI doctors said on Monday (9) opposition leader Khaleda Zia was at “high risk” of dying without urgent medical intervention abroad after authorities rejected a plea to let her leave the country.

Zia, 78, is a two-time former prime minister who heads the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and has been living under effective house arrest since her release from a 17-year prison sentence in 2020.

She has advanced liver cirrhosis, diabetes and heart problems and the government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina last week rejected a family request to allow her to travel to Germany for a liver transplant.

Zia and Hasina, 77 are known as the “battling Bbegums of Bangladesh politics” and their internecine rivalry has dominated the politics of the country of 170 million people for four decades.

A panel of 17 doctors who treated Zia at a top private hospital in the Bangladeshi capital for the last two months backed the family, saying her condition was deteriorating.

“She’s at high risk of death,” hepatologist Nooruddin Ahmad told reporters.

The group said she had developed infections and breathing problems, and its head, FM Siddiqui, added that all options in Bangladesh “have come to an end, we cannot do anything more”.

The country is gearing up for general elections due in January, and Zia’s death would likely trigger huge opposition protests.

Hasina faces mounting pressure from Western powers to hold free and fair elections, which could set the stage for a comeback by Zia’s resurgent BNP.

In 2018, Zia was sentenced to 17 years in prison for graft, and jailed for two years before being released under heavy restrictions. She has rejected the charges as politically motivated.

Kayser Kamal, legal chief for BNP, slammed the government’s decision to bar her from leaving as an act of “political vengeance”.

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