Bangladesh ex-PMs reject corruption charges
Dhaka, June 8: Bangladesh's two former prime ministers have rejected accusations of corruption and abuse of power and said the country's army-backed interim administration had targeted them to tarnish their image.
''All these charges are false and baseless,'' immediate past prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia told reporters, breaking a long silence since January when the administration launched a drive to clean up politics ahead of elections late next year.
''Don't believe what is coming out in the newspapers and other media about alleged corruption by my family,'' Khaleda, chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), told reporters late yesterday.
Khaleda's rival Sheikh Hasina, chief of the Awami League and a former prime minister, also denied allegations of extortion and corruption against her.
''They are telling all lies. They are devoid of any truth,'' she told reporters.
''Never in my life I had taken or asked for money from anyone for myself or the party. But I am surprised that media reports are implicating even me for such offence,'' Hasina said.
More than 170 politicians including Khaleda's son Tareque Rahman and former ministers from both the BNP and Awami League have been detained in the anti-corruption drive.
Police are also investigating charges of murder against Khaleda for involvement in a deadly grenade attack on an Awami League rally three years ago in which 23 party members were killed.
Hasina is herself facing charges of murder linked to political violence in Dhaka, following Khaleda's exit from power last year, which led to the imposition of emergency and ban on political activity by the interim authority.
Former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed who heads the interim authority has vowed to spare nobody in the fight against corruption and abuse of power.
The two women have alternated as prime ministers of the impoverished and volatile south Asian country of more than 140 million people for 15 years until October 2006. But they have not spoken to each other for over a decade.