- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Washington Times is standing by the authenticity of an op-ed by Bangladesh’s opposition leader, Khaleda Zia, that has kicked up a storm in parliament in Dhaka.

The article, published Jan. 30 in The Times, “was submitted to us by Mark Pursey, a London-based intermediary acting on behalf of Begum Khaleda Zia,” said The Times’ Executive Editor David S. Jackson.

“We have been in touch with Mr. Pursey before and after the publication of the article and we are confident in its authenticity,” he added.

Mr. Pursey, managing partner of the Britain-based communications consultancy BTP Advisers, has declined to comment publicly.

In the article “The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh,” Mrs. Zia urged the U.S. to save democracy in Bangladesh by insisting on the creation of a caretaker government to oversee elections.

Mrs. Zia, a former prime minister and leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, had been silent about the op-ed in the months immediately following its publication.

On Saturday, she told parliament in Dhaka that she did not send the article to The Times.

Mr. Jackson said that before the article was published, The Times had been in touch with Mr. Pursey and it was clear that he was in contact with Mrs. Zia and that the article represented her views.

“We do take measures to assure that articles like these are genuine, and we did so in this case as well,” he said.

In the op-ed, Mrs. Zia also called on the U.S. to explain to the government of Bangladesh that it would suspend trade preferences if those who support workers’ rights and have views opposite from those of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are not allowed to express their views.

The Obama administration in June suspended Generalized System of Preference trade benefits to Bangladesh. Lawmakers from Ms. Hasina’s ruling Awami League party have blamed Mrs. Zia for triggering the U.S. decision.

The Obama administration’s decision was precipitated by concerns over labor rights and worker safety in Bangladesh. These concerns were heightened after more than 1,100 workers were killed in Dhaka in a building collapse, the deadliest disaster in the history of the global garment industry.

On Feb. 6, The Times published a rejoiner to Mrs. Zia’s article from Bangladeshi Ambassador to the U.S. Akramul Qader.

“While her party and other allies have been terrorizing the country to bring back a non-elected caretaker government to hold the next parliamentary elections, the people of Bangladesh have good reasons to question her actual intention,” Mr. Qader wrote.

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