Tareque Zia raises hopes for Bangladesh gas exports

Vol 6, PW 9 (03 Jul 02) People & Policy

TAREQUE ZIA - son of Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and a strong supporter of gas exports to India - has been appointed joint general secretary of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Tareque, aged 41, is a "fixer" who became a successful businessman using his parents' connections. In Bangladesh he is widely seen as the power behind the throne of his mother.

Unlike the party's old guard, Tareque favours gas exports to India. Soon after he took charge, PETROWATCH spoke to Tareque.

Understandably, he was guarded. "I favour pragmatic policies," he said.

"The world is moving forward and so should Bangladesh." What does this mean A source close to Tareque says he supports gas exports as well as allowing transit facilities for Indian goods across Bangladesh. Both are long-standing issues between the two countries.

"If we cannot use the gas locally, we must sell it to people who can use it and make money for the country." India's external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing has been cultivating Tareque for some time now. In February, he was their guest in Mumbai for two days to discuss how best to push for gas exports against opposition from the Awami League party.

This month the Awami League agreed to participate in parliamentary proceedings, ending an eight-month boycott. In Bangladesh many believe this is the beginning of a national consensus on gas exports.

Soon parliament will debate two studies on the issue and with a two-third majority, many hope the government can push through a decision on exports.