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101 East
Missing in Action
A political crisis is engulfing Bangladesh as opposition party members disappear under mysterious circumstances.
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2012 07:57

Political turmoil escalates in Bangladesh amid growing calls for an independent investigation into the mysterious disappearance of scores of opposition activists.

The BNP, Bangladesh's main opposition party, organised protests across the country after one of its regional leaders, Elias Ali, went missing on April 17.

On 29 April, 2012, at least nine bombs were detonated in central Dhaka during a nationwide protest. About 100 opposition officials have been charged with carrying out the explosions at key government locations, while 27 others were arrested for violence, including Sirajul Haq, an ex-junior health minister, and Kamruzzaman Ratan, a former BNP student wing leader.

Police have raided the homes of several top opposition members and some opposition leaders have gone into hiding.

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Human rights groups claim more than 100 opposition figures have gone missing since Bangladesh’s transition to democracy over four years ago. And local rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra say that at least 22 people have disappeared this year.

The elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion, which has earned praise because of its fight against some radical Islamic groups in recent years, has been blamed for many disappearances.

Ali is the highest profile opposition politician to have disappeared since Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladeshi prime minister, and her Bangladesh Awami League took power in January 2009.

Today, the personal rivalry between Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia has split the country and analysts say the rule of law is weak with too much power allocated to security forces.

As the political crisis deepens in this country of 160 million people, critics say not only its democracy but also its economy is at risk.

Meanwhile, the opposition party and its 17 other allies say they plan to enforce "tougher" anti-government protests. They accuse police of using excessive force both during the recent anti-government protests and in police detention.

Last August, MU Ahmed, an opposition lawyer, died in police custody. His wife Selina has filed a murder case against several high-ranking police and government officials.

Statistics show that since the ruling Bangladesh Awami League came to power, murder in police custody has increased. Activists claim police are spared legal action as they act on directives from ruling party leaders. But the government denies the allegations.

As tensions escalate, 101 East investigates Bangladesh's disappearing activists.

 
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Source:
Al Jazeera
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