DHAKA (AFP) – Two top leaders of Bangladesh’s main opposition party were taken from their homes by police in the early hours yesterday, a day before a planned rally to call for the prime minister’s resignation.
Protests sparked by power cuts and fuel price hikes have erupted across the country in recent months, demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down in favour of fresh elections under a caretaker government.
Yesterday’s police action comes two days after security forces in the capital Dhaka fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of thousands of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters preparing for the rally today, leaving at least one dead and scores wounded. Western governments – along with the United Nations (UN) – have expressed concerns over the political climate in Bangladesh, one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.
BNP general secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and a former minister and member of the party’s top decision-making body Mirza Abbas were taken from their homes at about 3am yesterday, Zahiruddin Swapan, head of the BNP’s media wing, told AFP.
“They were plainclothes policemen. Alamgir knew their identity. They told him he was being taken away on the order of the high command,” Swapan said, adding the party did not know where the two had been taken. Police said the pair were under their custody at the “DB (Detective Branch police) compound”.
“They are being questioned,” Detective Branch police chief Harun ur Rashid told reporters.
Tensions have been high in the capital ahead of Saturday’s planned rally, which the BNP said would draw hundreds of thousands of supporters from all over the country.