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Zia to lose state protocol; Opposition leaders go into hiding

Discussion in 'South Asia & SAARC' started by layman, Jan 9, 2014.

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  1. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    The BNP chief Khaleda Zia, who boycotted Bangladesh’s general election, has sought adequate protection as she is set to lose her protocol and security guards for the first time in 23 years since she is no longer a lawmaker.

    Newspaper reports and BNP sources said Colonel (retd) Abdul Majid, a top official of Ms. Zia’s personal security team, sent a letter to Ansar and Village Defence Party headquarters two days ago, seeking 22 Ansars personnel for her security.

    During the past 23 years, Ms. Zia had enjoyed protocol and special facilities, including security guards, in her capacity as either the prime minister or Leader of Opposition.

    Ms. Zia demanded deployment of Ansar forces to guard her upmarket Gulshan residence in Dhaka.

    “I’ve visited the spot (Ms. Zia’s residence after getting the request) and will submit my report to the authorities concerned. The government will decide whether it will permit,†a top Ansar official told the media.

    The government withdrew her normal security protocols on December 28 while paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and riot police laid a siege around her house.

    Ms. Zia, earlier, said she was under a virtual house-arrest.

    But, the government denied, saying party leaders and foreign envoys met her inside the house and nobody barred her from coming out of the residence.

    Ms. Zia’s security is taken care of by a personal security team manned by some retired army officers and soldiers. Ms. Zia, who was elected twice as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, was receiving various allowance and ministerial privileges as Leader of the Opposition for the past five years.

    Two policemen from special branch were in her security detail besides eight police personnel provided as part of protocol alongside a private secretary, assistant private secretary, other staff and domestic aides and an allowance of 53,100 taka.

    Former military ruler HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party has emerged as the main opposition after getting 33 seats in the January 5 election.

    Meanwhile, state minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku said Zia would continue to enjoy security protection. “She would no more be the opposition leader...but as the former premier and leader of a big party she will be given the due security protection,†he told Samokal newspaper.

    Bangladesh opposition members go into hiding

    Opposition members in Bangladesh have gone into hiding as police carry out sweeping raids after the country’s violent national election, a news report and a rights group said on Thursday.

    The ruling party easily won Sunday’s election, which was marred by street fighting, low turnout and an opposition boycott, with at least 18 people dying in election-related violence. The vote only exacerbated tensions in this South Asian nation, which has a grim history of political unrest.

    Political violence has convulsed Bangladesh in recent months as opposition activists staged attacks, strikes and transportation blockades to protest Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government. Nearly 300 people have been killed in the violence since last February.

    After her party swept the largely uncontested elections, Ms. Hasina said Monday that her first priority was to contain the violence with an “iron hand.â€

    On Tuesday, detectives arrested four opposition leaders, including an adviser to opposition chief and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. All four are still in jail.

    Many other senior opposition leaders, including a former law minister, have been arrested in recent months on charges of fueling violence and also remain jailed. Police say they are investigating the charges, which the opposition says are politically motivated.

    Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary-general of Ms. Zia’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or BNP, said this week that hundreds of party leaders and activists had gone into hiding because of harassment by authorities.

    On Thursday, Kaler Kantho, a leading Bengali-language daily, named at least 18 leaders of BNP and its student wing who had gone into hiding. The paper quoted Mahbubur Rahman, a former army official and a senior BNP leader, as saying the government “cannot suppress the BNP (Zia’s party) this way.â€

    New York-based Human Rights Watch said “many opposition leaders and activists have gone into hiding,†and accused Bangladesh of conducting arbitrary arrests of opposition members before and after the election.

    “While in some cases the government has acted appropriately to stop violence by some opposition forces, this spate of arrests is part of a pattern of weakening critics, limiting dissent and consolidating ruling party power,†said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

    Mass arrests are common during political turmoil in Bangladesh, where power transfers are often bloody affairs. Since its independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh has seen two presidents assassinated and 19 failed coup attempts.

    Opposition activists typically take shelter in relatives’ homes or slip out of the country, pretending to be tourists or business travelers.

    Bangladesh’s newly elected lawmakers took the oath of office Thursday as Hasina moved forward with forming the new government.

    The opposition had demanded that Hasina’s government resign so a neutral administration could oversee the polls, saying Hasina might rig the election if she stayed in office. She denied that.

    The political gridlock plunges Bangladesh deeper into turmoil and economic stagnation. The country also is struggling to reinvigorate its $20 billion garment industry, which has been hit by a series of horrifying disasters including a factory collapse last April that killed more than 1,100 workers.

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