Opposition in poll-bound Bangladesh announces fresh blockade
Press Trust of India
Dhaka, 5 December
Bangladesh’s former military ruler H M Ershad today threatened to kill himself after security forces overnight surrounded his residence, two days after his dramatic decision to boycott next month’s elections.
“I have loaded four pistols…I told the government I will kill myself if they play any tricks with me,” Mr Ershad told a private television channel at his up market Gulshan residence after midnight yesterday.
“I will die before the RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) or the police can lay a finger on me,” the 83-year-old said, before making a trigger-pulling gesture towards his head. Mr Ershad on Tuesday said Jatiya Party ~ a crucial ally of the Awami League-led grand alliance ~ will not participate in the 5 January general elections, raising questions over the credibility of the polls which is also being boycotted by the main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies. Large numbers of security forces massed outside his home, fuelling speculation the general was about to be arrested. Police said in view of the evolving situation, security has been intensified around the former President’s house for his “own safety”.
However, Jatiya Party sources said security forces cordoned off Mr Ershad’s house as the government tried to mount pressures on him to revise his decision.
Mr Ershad, who ran the country for nine years after assuming power following a bloodless coup in 1982, announced to stay off the polls because of the lack of a “proper atmosphere” and ordered resignation of six Cabinet ministers from the party. He also ordered the withdrawal of candidatures of his nominees in the upcoming elections.
According to analysts, Mr Ershad could appear as the main Opposition if the elections were held discarding the BNP-led Opposition alliance, with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami being its major partner.
The BNP and its right-wing allies did not field their candidates for the polls either, as they are bent upon their demanded to install a non-party caretaker set-up to oversee the elections.
Unfazed by boycotts by Jatiya party and the BNP, as well as widespread political violence, the Awami League is insisting the polls will go ahead as scheduled on 5 January.
The BNP and its right wing allies today called the third phase of their nationwide blockade from Saturday after violent identical protests paralysed the country for the past nine days that claimed over 50 lives.