The Contrast

It is 1979 —during the administration of President Ziaur Rahman. ASM Abdur Rab is the in prison, convicted of being part of a treasonous coup. He is diagnosed with liver and gallbladder complicacies. After being treated at the convict cell of the Dhaka Medical College, physicians suggest that he is sent overseas for treatment. The leftist Mr Rab expresses an interest in going to West Germany, eschewing Russia, Czechoslovakia, Cuba etc. On physicians’ advice, Ziaur Rahman fast tracks Mr Rab’s passport and arranges for him to go to West Germany at public expense.

It is 1991 —Mrs Khaleda Zia is the Prime Minister. Rashed Khan Menon, an opposition leader at the time, was shot and critically wounded because of a local dispute with Maoist insurgents. The bullet has splattered a part of his liver. The Khaleda Zia government expedites (literally overnight) all paperwork and sends Rashed Khan Menon to the King’s College Hospital of London.

22 years later, Menon and co are in power, and Mrs Khaleda Zia is battling a life-threatening liver disease. And King’s College Hospital is one of the hospitals where her physicians prefer for her better treatment.

Against that backdrop, the Voice of America asked Sheikh Hasina, the unelected Prime Minister of 15 years, ‘We are receiving the news of the deteriorating health of the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia. Would you reconsider the matter of sending her abroad for better treatments?’

In reply, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, ‘Let me ask, which other country has been able to send convicted criminals overseas for treatment. Which country on earth will let it? If they need to ask for this, they need to go to the courts. They will have to get permission from the courts. We have no scope here to interfere in any activity by the courts.’