Conniving with the generals or patronising the people?
The official line is simple. British Airways refused to allow passenger Sheikh Hasina Wajed to fly to Dhaka due to a notification issued by the Dhaka regime banning her from entering the country. Only the naive will believe that a person like her could be kept off the plane without the tacit approval of the British government.
It may well be true that keeping both the begums out of politics is good for Bangladesh. But that is not a decision for the British government—and certainly not for British Airways—to make. In doing so, it has become party to the political re-engineering that Dhaka’s generals are conducting. Even if the Blair government is not directly backing the regime, it did no favour to the Bangladeshi people by taking a patronising attitude towards them. There exists a possibility that the British government acted to give Sheikh Hasina a face-saving way out of the confrontation. That’s unlikely, though.
The decision to admit or turn back a passenger is made by the immigration official at the destination airport—on the other side of the yellow line. The immigration officer at Dhaka airport could have refused to stamp her passport, and sent her back. Given the political environment and Sheikh Hasina’s popularity, this would not have been easy. The generals would have had to pay a high price to send her back.
The British government wittingly but unwisely give them a huge discount.