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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08DHAKA639 2008-06-12 10:24:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Dhaka
Cable title:  

HASINA EN ROUTE TO BOSTON

Tags:   PGOV PINR PREL PINS KDEM KCOR OVIP ASEC BG 
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1. (C) Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina departed Dhaka
the morning of June 12 as scheduled; she plans to arrive in
Boston at 1825 local time June 12. In meetings with leaders
of her party, the Awami League, following her release from
prison June 11, Hasina instructed her deputies to participate
in a dialogue with Bangladesh's Caretaker Government and
prepare for parliamentary elections scheduled for December


2008. Hasina also met with the four Advisers to the
Caretaker Government leading the dialogue with the political
parties, and she spoke by phone with Bangladesh's Chief
Adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed. The temporary resolution of the
impasse between the Awami League and the Caretaker Government
represents a major success for pragmatists in the government
who realized they could not sideline Hasina and still achieve
credible national elections by the end of the year. All eyes
now turn to the ongoing talks between the Caretaker
Government and the arch rival of the Awami League and Hasina,
the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and its imprisoned
leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

HASINA DEPARTS, INSTRUCTS AL TO PARTICIPATE IN DIALOGUE


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2. (C) Sheikh Hasina departed Bangladesh at approximately
0830 local time June 12. Accompanied by three members of her
personal staff, she is en route to Boston, where her son
resides; she will seek medical care there or perhaps in
Florida, where members of her family resided previously.
During a four-hour layover in London, she will be met by her
sister, Sheikh Rehana. Following an emotional return to her
Dhaka residence after her release from prison June 11, Hasina
met with Awami League leadership. According to AL leaders
present at the meeting, she thanked them for keeping the
party united despite attempts by some in the government to
foster a breakaway faction. She also described her suffering
during her 11-month imprisonment. She did not share any
details about the negotiations with the Caretaker Government
(CTG) to secure her release, but she instructed her deputies
to participate in the political dialogue with the CTG and
prepare for national elections scheduled for December.



3. (C) One of Hasina's traveling companions, her secretary
Dr. Hasan Mahmud, told the media she would return to
Bangladesh after her medical treatment, a message she echoed
just before departing Dhaka. Hasina said Acting Awami League
President Zillur Rahman should lead the party in the dialogue
with the CTG in her absence. She also encouraged her
deputies to continue with party activities in her absence.



4. (C) Hasina met briefly with the four advisers leading the
CTG's dialogue -- Communications Adviser Ghulam Quader,
Commerce Adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman, Foreign Affairs
Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, and Law Adviser A.F. Hassan
Ariff. During that meeting Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed
called and spoke to Hasina, who urged an end to the State of
Emergency and that national elections be held "as soon as
possible." According to some present, the meeting with
Advisers did not include an in-depth discussion of
substantive matters, but rather was a symbolic gesture to
demonstrate the start of a dialogue between the CTG and Awami
League.



5. (U) Hasina's departure from Zia International Airport in
Dhaka the morning of June 12 went off without a hitch, though
in an atmosphere of heightened security. Traffic congestion
was relatively limited, and crowds at her residence and the
airport were peaceful. Locally engaged staff at the Embassy
coming to work from that part of Dhaka reported minimal
delays.

COMMENT


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6. (C) Sheikh Hasina's release and departure represent a
victory for those in the Caretaker Government who urged

DHAKA 00000639 002 OF 002


negotiation with her, despite the corruption charges she
faces. Those trials will continue in her absence. After 18
months of trying to sideline Hasina, many in the government
realized they could not shake her hold on the Awami League or
ignore the broad support she still receives in Bangladesh.
Those in the CTG anxious to stick to the electoral roadmap
and elections in December also realized her release was the
only way to bring the Awami League to the negotiating table.
It remains to be seen whether the two sides can hammer out a
deal that clarifies Hasina's future role and ensures the
party's participation in the political process. The fact
that the Awami League has now agreed to participate in the
dialogue may put pressure on the rival BNP and its alliance
partner, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), to join the process. In the
wake of Hasina's release, leaders of both these parties
called for equal treatment for imprisoned BNP leader Khaleda
Zia and her two sons and for the imprisoned JI Ameer, Maulana
Motiur Rahman Nizami. We understand discussions are underway
with Zia and will follow this angle closely in the coming
days.

Moriarty