04/12/2007, 00.00

Ex-Bangladesh PM charged in killings

Nozrul Islam
Caretaker government’s law enforcement drive reaches Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina. The country’s powerful army is bent on wiping the slate clean of the major political parties with tacit Indian and US support.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Leaders of Bangladesh’s main political parties are facing charges, arrests and trials. The caretaker government seems in fact bent on pursuing its anti-corruption drive come what may in order to prepare elections that are democratic and transparent. But some see what is happening as the work of the country’s military and foreign powers.

The latest case involves Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, who was charged with masterminding the killings of four supporters of a rival political party during street violence in Dhaka last October.

Local experts point out however that the all-powerful army is behind government actions. The military is interested in holding onto power and keeping out the leaders of the country’s two main political parties, the Awami league and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Like her Awami League opponent, BNP leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is also in the army’s line of fire. She is currently under de facto house arrest after the authorities severely curtailed her freedom of movement.

Yet many observers exclude a direct army takeover because the population and the United States would not tolerate it. Instead, they are more likely to remain the power behind the throne with the tacit backing of India and the United States both of which want to protect their own interests and enforce the kind of stability that only a strong military can ensure.

Political and social instability in Bangladesh is in fact fuelled by a growing Islamist threat. Today for example, the judge who sentenced to death six Islamist terrorists was himself killed by armed men in Jhalakathi, in southern Bangladesh. Bangla Bhai and Abdur Rahman, two top leaders of the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh organisation, were among the men he sent to the gallows two weeks ago.

Since January 12, Bangladesh has been run by a caretaker government backed by the military. Its main task is to organise parliamentary elections following the cancellation of those scheduled for January 21 because fears of electoral fraud.

But last week the Elections Commission announced that a new poll won’t happen anytime soon. The next elections will instead be held towards the end of 2008.

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See also
Leader of largest Islamic party arrested on corruption charges
Elections begin in Bangladesh amid tight security
Awami League defeated in Chittagong
Doubts remain in Dhaka over elections under a state or emergency
Still disagreement over electoral reform in Bangladesh