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Bangladesh's Interim Administration Makes High Profile Arrests


Authorities in Bangladesh have made a series of high profile arrests as part of a crackdown on corruption by the country's new interim administration. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, a new election commissioner has also taken charge to organize new polls in the country, where controversial general elections were postponed recently.

Eight former ministers and a leading businessman are among those jailed after raids by the army and the police in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, on Sunday. The politicians belong to both the country's main parties - although most of them are from the former ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

These arrests came nearly a month after a new interim government took charge after emergency law was imposed and general elections were imposed. The new administration has vowed to crack down on corruption before holding elections.

An independent political analyst and columnist in Dhaka, Ataus Samad, says most people welcome the government's move to curb corruption in a country that Transparency International ranks as among the most corrupt in the world.

But he says the administration has not yet announced the charges against the men, who have been detained under special emergency laws.

"Generally people were wanting to see that the present regime made good their promise that they will crack down on corruption, but we do not know right now what cases are there are against these people because that has not yet been announced," said Samad. "There were lots of allegations against most of them, but the government has to prove it, because a lot of it is hearsay."

Several senior politicians were reported to have gone into hiding following the arrests.

Officials told local journalists the interim administration will not hesitate to act against top politicians if evidence of graft is found.

The interim administration also moved to fulfill another pledge - the reconstitution of the country's controversial election commission.

A new election commissioner, ATM Shamsul Huda, was sworn in Monday. His predecessor stepped down last month after one of the two main political alliances charged that the elections, originally scheduled for January 22, would be rigged.

Political observers say that the new commissioner is expected to clean up the election process, which critics say is riddled with irregularities.

The government has not yet announced a new date for the elections. It has said it wants to first carry out a string of reforms so that credible elections can be organized.