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Bangladesh Police Besiege Khaleda Zia Ahead of Election Anniversary

  • Reuters

FILE - Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia attends a rally in Dhaka.

FILE - Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia attends a rally in Dhaka.

Police besieged former Bangladesh Prime Minister and chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Khaleda Zia at her office January 4, ahead of the first anniversary of prime ministerial elections amid fears of violence as the opposition party planned rallies across the country.

The BNP and its allies had boycotted the election that was held January 5, 2014 which was marred by deadly unrest. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheik Hasina held to her stance that a fresh poll can be called only if her rivals halt violence.

The BNP denounced Hasina's scrapping of the practice of having a caretaker government oversee elections. The Awami League said that the interim government system had proved a failure.

On Sunday, at least seven police vehicles were placed at different locations including the BNP's central office in Dhaka city. Police twice barred BNP chief from leaving office.

However, BNP party workers held a protest in front of the party office to know the reason as to why the police besieged the party chief.

“We have gathered here at Gulshan office to protest the confinement of our party chief Khaleda Zia by the police last night. The youth wing and the women of the party are protesting to know the reason of confinement,” said a BNP member Shirin Zahan.

Hasina's Awami League ended with more than two-thirds of seats in a contest that was shunned by international observers as flawed and derided as a farce by the BNP. With fewer than half the seats contested, the outcome was never in doubt.

Hasina and Khaleda, 68, are bitter rivals who have alternated as prime minister for all but two of the past 22 years.

In the last election, in 2008, a record 83 percent of voters cast ballots. In a 1996 election boycotted by the Awami League, 21 percent voted.

The European Union, a duty free market for nearly 60 percent of Bangladesh's garment exports, refused to send election observers, as did the United States and the Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 mainly former British colonies.

The party has planned rally in Dhaka to mark the election anniversary but are yet to get police permission.