Dhaka, Nov 7 : Former Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed last evening returned home to lead her party in December parliamentary elections. She spent the past five months in the US getting medical treatment.
Police said more than two lakh supporters packed the route to the airport to greet their leader after the emergency government this week lifted all curbs on political rallies ahead of the first polls in seven years.
On landing at the airport, Sheikh Hasina told reporters that she had returned "to rescue the country from a great crisis." "The country is suffocating. I am very happy to be back at this critical time," The News quoted her as saying.
Her motorcade struggled to leave the airport as the crowds pressed forward to shower petals on her car.
The 61-year-old leader had spent a year in custody on corruption charges when she was freed on medical grounds and allowed to travel to the United States on June 12. She is still officially on bail pending possible trial on more than half a dozen graft cases, which could bar her from contesting a seat in the polls.
Her political rival and two time ex-premier, Khaleda Zia, was released on bail in September after more than a year in custody, also on corruption charges.
The intense personal animosity between Zia and Sheikh Hasina, who are known as the "battling begums" - has repeatedly paralysed political life in Bangladesh. The two alternated periods in office after the restoration of democracy in 1991, until the current military-backed administration came to power in January 2007.
Both women were arrested on graft charges by the government, which last year also tried to force them into exile as part of a drive to clean up a corrupt and dysfunctional political system. Each was eventually released on bail in deals to ensure the participation of their parties in next month's elections.
Bangladesh has been ruled by the military-backed government since January last year when months of political turmoil prompted the army to cancel polls and impose a state of emergency.