The former prime minister of Bangladesh, Begum
Khaleda Zia, was granted bail Tuesday by the country's high court. Her release
from prison will clear the way for Bangladesh's two largest political parties to
participate in national elections planned for December. VOA correspondent Steve
Herman reports from our South Asia Bureau in New Delhi.
After more than a year in custody, former
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been granted bail. The high court
action comes nearly three months after her political rival, former Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina, was released from jail on parole for medical treatment.
The two women head the largest political parties in Bangladesh. Their
freedom has been considered the prerequisite by their supporters for the parties
to participate in elections expected to be held before the end of the year. It
is hoped the vote will restore democratic governance to one of Asia's poorest
The former prime ministers were jailed on corruption charges
by the military-backed interim government.
Leaders of the emergency
government had hoped to neutralize the two matriarchs, as part of its sweeping
drive to rid the country of political graft. But analysts say it became evident
this year that fair and peaceful elections would not be possible without the
release of Khaleda of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Hasina of the
rival Awami League.
The secretary general of the BNP, Khondkar Delwar
Hossain, tells VOA News more still needs to be done by the caretaker government,
for there to be free and fair elections.
"They must lift the [state of] emergency
and announce the schedule of the election. During emergency, no fair election
can be held," said Hossain.
Khaleda became the country's first female
prime minister in 1991, a decade after the assassination of her husband.
President Ziaur Rahman was gunned down during a coup attempt.
the daughter of the Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, the slain founding president of
Bangladesh. She leads the Awami League and was prime minister for five years,
beginning in 1996.
Following feuding between the two main parties that
threatened to plunge Bangladesh into anarchy, the military put into place an
interim administration, in January, 2007. That government launched a massive
anti-corruption drive, arresting 170 political figures, including the two former