Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bangladesh opposition\'s five top leaders sent to jail

DHAKA, Nov. 9 -- Bangladesh opposition\'s five top leaders, who were detained late Friday night and early Saturday, have been sent to jail in connection with two cases against them filed for attempting to kill policemen and creating violence in the capital city.

The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate\'s Court in Dhaka passed the order Saturday evening sending the leaders to jail.

Police placed before the court a 20-day remand plea for the leaders, and the court fixed Nov. 14 for hearing the remand plea.

Earlier in the day, the main opposition party leaders were shown arrested in two cases filed on Sept. 24 and Nov. 6.

The defendants included Moudud Ahmed, MK Anwar and Rafiqul Islam, who are members of standing committee, the highest policy- making body of the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia\'s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The defendants also included BNP Chairperson Khaleda\'s Advisor Abdul Awal Mintoo and her Special Assistant Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas who were arrested during a surprise crackdown on opposition.

In protest against the detentions, lawyers of the BNP and its key ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party staged demonstrations on the court premises on Saturday.

Opposition men and police have clashed in Bangladesh capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country after the senior opposition figures were arrested.

Police arrested the BNP leaders hours after Khaleda\'s opposition alliance announced 72-hour nationwide strike form Sunday morning, demanding national polls slated for early 2014 under a non-party caretaker government.

Protesting the arrest of top leaders, the opposition alliance, however, has extended its 72-hour shutdown, slated to begin at 6: 00 a.m. (local time) Sunday, by 12 hours.

Defending the arrests, Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu had earlier said they were arrested for instigating attacks on people and their properties.

He said the government had no alternative but to make the arrest in view of the opposition party\'s possible acts of sabotage in the coming days.

\"It\'s totally a false allegation that they (the arrested leaders) instigated violence,\" BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed told Xinhua News agency.

He also claimed that the arrests were made as part of the government\'s conspiracy to hold a one-party election.

The two leading leaders of South Asian country\'s politics held phone talks last Oct. 26, the first direct conversation between the two leaders of the South Asian country\'s politics since January, 2009 when Hasina cabinet took oath of office.

Although both the parties are seeking dialogue to end impasse over the formation of the polls-time government, but no headway is being made so far.

Despite the main opposition alliance\'s threat to boycott elections, Bangladesh ruling coalition has initiated moves to form an all-party polls-time interim cabinet in line with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina\'s proposal.

The parliament is due to expire on Jan. 24 next year and elections reportedly should be held within 90 days before its expiry.

Since June 2011 when Bangladesh Parliament abolished the non- party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP- led alliance has been waging mass protests demanding for the reinstatement of the provision.

In Bangladesh, which has a history of frequent electoral fraud and violence, the caretaker government held elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008, which were recognized as free and fair by local and international observers.

Bangladesh plunged into a major political crisis in late 2006 and returned to democracy after two years of army-backed rule following a widely accepted parliamentary elections in 2008.

Under the current circumstances, political analysts point out that a consensus among the political parties should be reached over the caretaker issue to avoid further serious confrontation, a major condition for a smooth election in early 2014.

The United Kingdom on Saturday expressed its disappointment as Bangladesh\'s political confrontation had continued.

\"I am disappointed that we have seen continued confrontational action rather than constructive dialogue between the two main parties that could result in the outcome desired by most ordinary Bangladeshis: free, fair and credible elections in which all parties participate,\" Robert W Gibson, British high commissioner in Dhaka, was quoted as saying in a statement.

Paramilitary troops were deployed in Dhaka Saturday night amid fear of a violent face-off between activists of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League party and the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance centring the latter\'s 84-hour non-stop hartal from Sunday morning.
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