|Wednesday, 26 June 2002|
Ghosts of presidents haunt Bangladesh politics
DHAKA, June 25 (Reuters) - The ghost of a former president is haunting Bangladesh politics, with a controversy over plans to build a mausoleum to honour Ziaur Rahman splitting the country.
Former prime minister Sheikh Hasina has challenged incumbent premier Begum Khaleda Zia to prove that the grave overlooking Dhaka's parliament actually contains the remains of her slain husband, the former president General Ziaur Rahman.
Ziaur Rahman was killed in a 1981 army mutiny while visiting Chittagong port city. He was first buried on a Chittagong hillside, but later moved to Dhaka.
"I challenge that the body of Zia is not there...let them prove it," Hasina told a rally in Dhaka recently.
Khaleda has so far not responded, but her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called Hasina a "lunatic" and her comments "irresponsible."
Hasina, the daughter of another former President who was also assassinated, was speaking as debate raged over plans to build a mausoleum to honour Hasina's husband.
The BNP government is finalising plans to build the 250 million taka ($4.3 million) mausoleum at Zia's grave -- a proposal Hasina's Awami League has said was "unnecessary and inconsistent with the country's poor economic conditions".
The BNP acidly responded that Hasina might have borne that in mind when she approved plans for a sprawling mausoleum to honour her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, while she was in power.
Mujibur Rahman was killed in a 1975 coup, four years after Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan.
Dead politicians sometimes appear to influence Bangladesh's politics as much as the living.
The country's figurehead president, A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury, was forced to resign last week after neglecting to visit Zia's tomb on the anniversary of his death.
Produced by Lake House