Body of Zia's son arrives in B'desh amid political turmoil

Body of Zia's son arrives in B'desh amid political turmoil

 The body of Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia's self-exiled son, who died in Malaysia last week, arrived here today amid an escalation of political turmoil that claimed two more lives to take the death toll in the anti-government protests to 37.

Senior leaders of former premier Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) received the body of Arafat Rahman Koko who died on Saturday following a cardiac arrest.

Koko's wife and two daughters arrived with the body on board a Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Koko's body was driven straight to her mother's Gulshan office from where she is spearheading a fierce campaign against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.

A large crowd had gathered in front of Zia's office awaiting the body.
The BNP has enforced a nationwide blockade which entered its 22nd day today.

Sporadic violence was reported and two more people died overnight to take the death toll in the violence to 37 with nearly half of them killed in arson attacks on buses and other public transport vehicles.

The latest victims were truck drivers who succumbed to their burn wounds early this morning at two state-run hospitals in the capital and northwestern Rangpur, days after arsonists attacked their vehicles with petrol bombs.

At least 37 people have been killed in violence during anti-government protests that took place following BNP's call for a nationwide non-stop blockade from January 6 after authorities barred its chief Zia from joining a protest rally to mark the first anniversary of the last year's divisive January 5 polls.

Ruling Awami League said their leaders would take part in Koko's "namaz-e-janaza" or the funeral prayers.

Senior BNP leaders, on condition of anonymity, said they plan to request Zia to invite Hasina to attend Koko's 'Qulkhwani' -- the Quran recitation and prayers for the deceased -- later this week.
Political divisions have sharply increased as manifested in the controversy that emerged last week when Hasina, who had gone to offer condolences on the sudden death of Zia's youngest son, was turned away from the gates of her arch-rival, in an apparent snub.

"We will request madam (Zia) to invite the Prime Minister (Hasina) to attend the Qulkhwani but the decision will be taken by her," a BNP leader was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune.

Hours after Koko's death, Hasina along with senior leaders of her ruling Awami League went to Zia's office but the gate was locked from inside and none of the BNP chief's aides came to receive the premier as she got off her car and waited for a few minutes.

The incident sparked a controversy, prompting several BNP leaders to admit that it was an "indecent act" on the part of Zia's aide who had said that the shocked ex-premier was asleep under the influence of sedatives to soothe her as Hasina came.

BNP leaders said Koko was to be buried at a military graveyard at Banani area in the capital since he was the son of former army chief Ziaur Rahman, who was also the founder of the BNP.

But chairman of BNP's ally Kalyan Party Major General (retd) Syed Mohammad Ibrahim told reporters that the authorities denied permission to bury him at the military graveyard.

"As a member of former military officer's family, Koko has the right to be buried at there...We do not know the reason behind the denial (but) it is quite frustrating," Ibrahim said.
Zia's family, however, was yet to announce any decision as to where Koko would be laid to rest but TV reports quoting sources said he could eventually be buried at a municipal cemetery in the capital.

Koko's death came amid Zia's massive anti-government campaign enforcing a violent nationwide blockade demanding dialogue with Hasina for a fresh inclusive mid-term polls.

Zia's elder son and BNP's senior vice president Tarique Rahman now lives in London to evade trials in a number of graft and criminal charges, including one for allegedly masterminding a grenade attack on a rally of the now ruling Awami League in which 24 people were killed in 2004 while Hasina narrowly escaped the blast.

Koko preferred to stay away from politics and maintain a low-profile but he was known for his passion for sports.

He was arrested in September 2007 on graft charges during a massive anti-graft campaign under emergency rules when an army-backed interim regime was in power. He was paroled for treatment abroad in July 2008.

Koko first went to Thailand and lived there until 2011 and then went to Malaysia, even as a Dhaka court that year sentenced him to six years in jail after trial in absentia.

Zia met Koko last in Singapore in 2012. The whole family could not be together since 2007

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