Blanket ban on political activity in Bangladesh
Mar 9, 2007 - 12:46:56 PM

Dhaka, March 9 - Bangladesh's caretaker government has slapped a complete ban on all political activity, including indoor meetings, processions and rallies.

The government's move late Thursday comes a day after former prime minister Khaleda Zia's son Tarique Rahman was arrested and another former premier Sheikh Hasina's house was searched as part of the anti-corruption drive that has put several top politicians and officials behind bars.

'Stern legal action will be taken against the violators of the order,' said a press note issued late Thursday by the home ministry.

To place the drive within an institutional framework, the government has indicated that it would revive the National Security Council - that would be headed by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed and would have three military chiefs, civilian officials and heads of intelligence and security agencies besides non-government persons.

The blanket ban on political activity came after the Awami League criticised as 'unfortunate' the search of Sudha Sadan, the official residence of its chief Sheikh Hasina, allegedly without a search warrant.

Media reports said the security forces heading the drive repeatedly raided the premises looking for Hasina's nephew Sheikh Helal, who was not found.

Political analysts said the ban, although not easy to enforce, was meant to ensure that political activists do not spill over to the streets as they had done during October-December last year.

The prolonged turmoil that affected economic activity led to the cancellation of the ninth general elections and imposition of national emergency.

The government press note said that despite a ban on political activities under the State of Emergency Rules 2007, various parties conducted their political activities and the government had taken a lenient view, media reports said Friday.

'But it was noticed that different political parties were misusing the government's liberal attitude,' the note warned.

The caretaker government has nabbed an estimated 45,000 people during its continuing campaign against crime, corruption and religious extremism.

Most of the politicos are from Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party -, many from the Awami League and a few from the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jatiya Party.

Tarique Rahman has been held on charge of extortion and was on Thursday night remanded to police custody for four days. 'I am a victim of domestic and international conspiracies,' he mumbled as journalists asked for his reaction after being produced before the court.

He was dressed in a black bulletproof jacket of the Rapid Action Battalion -, an elite paramilitary force that is used for fighting crime. New Age newspaper said Tarique was given protective gear for his own safety.

Tarique has been charged with extortion of 10 million takas from construction firm, Al-Amin Construction. Its owner Amin Ahmed, a political supporter who got a ticket as a BNP candidate for the cancelled polls, had filed the case against Tarique on Thursday.

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