11/16/2010, 00.00
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Nationalist party activists clash with police

by William Gomes
Opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia is expelled from her home, sparking protests in the capital and elsewhere. Dozens of people are injured. The former prime minister had been living in the house for the past 30 years.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Police on Saturday arrested more than a hundred people outside of Begum Khaleda Zia’s cantonment house as they protested against the government’s decision to evict her. Thousands of police and soldiers moved against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader and former prime minister in order to expel from the Dhaka residence where she lived for more than 30 years. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used against protesters.

Clashes were reported elsewhere in the country. Local sources said that 50 people were wounded in Sirajganj, a district north-west of Dhaka. In Khustia, western Bangladesh, at least three people were killed following a bomb blast at the home of Afaz Uddin, a member of parliament from the ruling Awami League. However, police did not say whether there was any connection between the bomb and the protests.

On 20 April 2009, the Directorate of Military Lands and Cantonments handed Ms Khaleda a notice, asking her to vacate the cantonment residence. Ms Khaleda filed a petition with the High Court challenging the legality of the government notice asking her to leave the house within 15 days. The government reiterated the order and the former prime minister rejected it again. In mid-October this year, the High Court turned down Khaleda’s appeal, giving her 30 days to vacate the premises.

BNP secretary general Khandker Delwar Hossain said that Khaleda Zia filed a leave to appeal with the Appellate Division on 8 November in order to get the High Court verdict overturned. At present, the appeal has not yet been heard. The formal hearing was adjourned to 29 November. However, the Appellate Division did not stay the High Court verdict.

Thus, Ms Khaleda was forced out of her home last Saturday. At a press conference, she said that security officials broke down her front door, and dragged her out. Military sources say instead that she left on her own accord.

Begum Khaleda Zia was the prime minister of Bangladesh between 1991 and 1996, the first woman to be democratically elected to that post in her country’s history (and the second woman in a Muslim country after Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan).

In 1981, then Pakistan President H M Ershad assigned her the house from which she was removed after her husband, General Ziaur Rahman, was killed during a military coup.

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