Mass arrests in Bangladesh capital

About 1,500 activists arrested in Dhaka ahead of a two-day general strike.

    The election commission has asked the military to keep the peace during the election period [Reuters] 

    Qader said: "Police have detained at least 1,500 activists alone in the capital, Dhaka, since Thursday. We'll enforce the blockade as per our plan."


    However, Bangladesh's Daily Star newspaper quoted ABM. Bazlur Rahman, a Dhaka city police chief, as saying the clampdown was not related to any particular party or political allegiances.


    Rahman said that police were holding those likely to create trouble and prevent a free and fair election and that

    "it is part of a continuous process".


    Large rally


    Despite the arrests, about 5,000 alliance supporters rallied on Friday night in Dhaka to press their demands.


    Abdul Jalil, a senior Hasina aide, said: "We are boycotting the vote because it will not be free and fair. We shall also not allow the holding of the polls."


    The election commission has said the polls will go ahead as scheduled, regardless of the alliance boycott.


    Hasina's alliance wants the ballot delayed until electoral reforms, including the revision of a voter list, are complete, and Iajuddin Ahmed, the country's president, has stepped down.


    Zia says she is not  bothered
    by the poll boycott [AFP]

    By boycotting the election, the alliance has left the contest largely to a four-party coalition led by Hasina's main rival, Khaleda Zia, the former prime minister and her Bangladesh National party.


    Zia said on Friday: "We are not bothered by the boycott. We will take part in the polls."


    Supporters killed


    The president of the federation of Bangladesh chambers of commerce and industry warned that the boycott would render the elections meaningless, cause more turmoil and hurt the economy.


    Mir Nasir Hossain said: "Politics will now be more unstable. Our economy will be its worst victim. Elections without participation of all political parties will not be meaningful."


    At least 34 people have been killed in protests and clashes between supporters of the rival political alliances since the start of the crisis in October.


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    "We are boycotting the vote because it will not be free and fair"

    Abdul Jalil, senior Hasina aide

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    Ahmed called in the military to control the crisis in December, while the election commission has asked the military to keep the peace during the January 10 to 29 election period.


    Abdur Rashid Sarker, an election official, said: "Nobody wants the country to head toward anarchy."


    Troops have been deployed during previous Bangladesh elections.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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