Photo: KHURSHED RINKU/AP
Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh‘s former prime minister and main opposition leader, has been put under house arrest, her aides said today as police surrounded her home in the capital Dhaka.
Leaders of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party said she had been prevented from leaving her house since last Thursday after she called ‘a rally for democracy’ against Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government, and in protest at her refusal to allow a caretaker government to preside over next Sunday’s general election.
The BNP and other main opposition parties have boycotted the election and the Commonwealth, European Union and United States dealt a blow to its credibility when they refused to send observers.
Western diplomats in Dhaka have voiced growing alarm over authoritarian measures taken by the government to suppress opposition protests and have sought to visit Ms Zia to highlight their concern. Britain’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Robert Gibson, is understood to have met the former prime minister earlier on Monday.
Until Monday she has not been allowed to leave her home or receive visitors at her home – which is guarded by dozens of police, according to her aides, and blockaded by lorries.
“Khaleda Zia is most certainly interned in her house. The police don’t allow people to come into or out of her house,” said Shamsher Mubin Chowdhury, a senior vice-chairman of the party.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “The authorities are not officially saying she is under house arrest but for all practical purposes she is under house arrest.”
Later on Monday, Mr Chowdhury himself was detained.
“Just after the British High Commision left Khaleda Zia’s house, three of the BNP leader came out and Shamsher got into his car and this was chased and then the car stopped and he was taken,” his wife, Shahidah Yasmin, told The Telegraph.
“Only he has been detained. He just called me from the phone and said that the detective branch had taken him.”
Lutful Kabir, deputy commissioner of Dhaka metropolitan police said the restrictions around Ms Zia’s home had been imposed on security grounds.
“A political movement has been launched by her party and the present government. This creates lots of risk and it is down to the risk that we have this security,” he said.
More than a thousand local BNP leaders had also been detained and earlier on Monday three of the party’s senior female leaders were arrested, including two members of parliament who were later released. All transport into the capital was stopped as the authorities launched a “lockdown” to stop opposition protests.
Two weeks earlier, the leader of the country’s third largest party, former military ruler General Ershad, was also detained when he was forcibly taken to a military hospital. His supporters said he had been detained to force his party to contest the general election and bolster its credibility.
Governments in Bangladesh have, until now, stepped down in favour of neutral caretaker administrations in the run up to general elections. The country’s opposition parties argue that no free and fair election can take place in Bangladesh under a “political government” with its control of the election commission, the administration and the police.
The election on January 5 will now only see contests between candidates from the governing Awami League and its allies. In more than half of the 300 seats the Awami League candidate will not be challenged.
The EU recently said that “the necessary conditions for transparent, inclusive and credible elections,” were not present.
Source: The Telegraph