Bangladesh Jails Ex-PM Zia on Corruption Charge

Bangladesh's military-backed administration has arrested former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia on charges of corruption. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi that the heads of the country's two main political parties are now in detention.

Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was arrested and jailed Monday after a city court refused her bail in a corruption case. She faces charges of using her influence to select the operator of state cargo depots in 2003. Her son also was arrested.

The arrest has been expected since July, when her rival, former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was arrested.

Syed Mohammad Ibrahim, a political analyst in Bangladesh, says the move is part of the administration's strategy to force the two leaders out of politics.

"The fact is they are too powerful to be removed by the party themselves, or to be removed even by the people themselves, so they have to be removed through a process of law," he said.

The administration had tried unsuccessfully to send the two women - who between them ruled the country for 16 years - into exile.

Since then the interim administration has been pressuring their organizations - Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and Sheikh Hasina's Awami League Party - to change their leadership.

The military-backed government says Khaleda Zia's arrest is part of a crackdown against corruption, and proves that no one is above the law.

On Sunday, the government also filed new corruption charges against Sheikh Hasina, accusing her of taking illegal payments from a private company to build a power plant. She already faces several other charges.

Both women have denied the charges against them, calling them fabricated and politically motivated.

The two leaders are widely blamed for misrule and rampant corruption during the time they ruled the country.

The government has vowed to remove corruption from politics before it holds elections and restores democracy next year. Nearly 170 leaders from both parties are already in detention.

Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January when the failure of the two main parties to reach a consensus on how to hold elections plunged the country into violence.