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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 12:07 GMT
Tarique Rahman - flawed heir apparent?
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

Khaleda Zia in front of poster of her father,  Zia Rahman
Tarique Rahman's parents have both led Bangladesh

There is a sign - now beginning to fade a little - on the wall outside the headquarters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Dhaka.

It says: Ziaur Rahman was our leader, Khaleda Zia is our leader and Tarique Rahman will be our leader.

It may be propaganda, but it is not untrue to say that Tarique Rahman has been groomed for leadership of his party since birth.

His father, Ziaur Rahman, was president of the country before his assassination in 1981, and his mother Khaleda Zia served as prime minister for two periods of office - the second one ending last October.

'Hatchet man'

Tarique, 42, made his first significant step in politics in 2002, when it was announced that he had been promoted to a senior position within the then governing BNP.

The opposition described his rise to joint secretary-general of the party as brazen nepotism, an audacious attempt by Khaleda Zia to groom her son for leadership of the country.

The government should say what the charges of corruption are. Otherwise, there will be questions about his arrest
Asif Nazrul, professor at Dhaka University

His ascent was all the more controversial because of doubts voiced by his critics over whether he had fully completed a degree course in Australia, where reports say he owns a shopping mall.

Mr Rahman rapidly acquired a reputation for being a "hatchet man" who enforced party discipline.

'Scapegoat'

But at the same time he was widely accused of graft in the country's media and was described by one critic as "the epicentre of crime and corruption".

Confiscated luxury car
The assets of several leading politicians have been confiscated

An editorial by the Daily Star editor, Mahfuz Anam, in September summed up the feelings against "the enforcer" that were held by many.

He accused Mr Rahman of "working tirelessly to marginalise the old leadership in the BNP in order to set up his own alternative chain of sycophants, so that after the next election he can serve the country unchallenged".

Analysts say that his arrest shows that the caretaker government was fulfilling its pledge to spare no-one in its anti-graft drive.

Mr Rahman appears to prefer working behind the scenes: he rarely speaks to the press, and is renowned for his reticence in the few media interviews he has given.

But critics of his detention point out that none of the corruption allegations against Mr Rahman have been proved, and that there is a danger that he has been made a scapegoat.

"There has been media hype about his involvement in corruption. But there has been hardly any concrete and specific charges against him.

"The government should now say what are the charges of corruption against him. Otherwise, there will be questions about his arrest," commentator Asif Nazrul, a professor of Dhaka University told the AFP news agency.


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