Security tight for Bangladesh ex-PMs as poll nears

Police have tightened security for former prime ministers Hasina and Khaleda Zia in the final run-up to Dec. 29 parliamentary elections.

Security tight for Bangladesh ex-PMs as poll nears

Police have tightened security for former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia in the final run-up to Dec. 29 parliamentary elections where their parties are the favoured contenders.

Police have asked Hasina to stop lowering the windows of her bullet-proof SUV to wave at crowds on the road, security officials said on Tuesday.

Security measures have increased for both women as they take to the campaign trails, with personal armed guards and military commandoes constantly at their sides.

But the focus turned more on Hasina after local media quoted an Indian television channel saying Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami militants have set up a suicide squad to kill her.

Home Ministry officials would not confirm or deny the report, but said they believed Hasina would be safe.

"Inshallah (god willing), nothing will happen to her," said retired major-general M.A. Matin, home affairs adviser (minister) for the military-backed interim government due to step down after the December vote.

Political analysts and diplomats hope it will mark a return to democracy after two years of emergency rule in which many normal rights were suspended.

A stable, democratically elected civilian government could help attract much needed foreign investment and aid to impoverished Bangladesh, an Indian Ocean country of more than 140 million people with a history frequently marked by turmoil.

Previous elections were marred by violence and fraud, though the government says it will make sure this one is peaceful and credible.

Islamist militants tried to kill Hasina twice before, by planting explosives at a meeting venue in 2002 and throwing grenades at a Dhaka rally in 2004. The grenades killed 23 people and wounded around 150. Hasina survived with partial loss of hearing.

Hasina told an election rally on Monday she was not afraid of death, "as I have been haunted by death throughout my life".

Khaleda also remains defiant of security concerns, speaking at scores of rallies every day and night as she travels to meet voters across the country.

Aside from the security details accompanying candidates, Bangladesh has army troops deployed around the country to try to maintain law and order until the vote is over.

Hasina ruled Bangladesh for five years until 2001 while Khaleda served two five-year terms, with her second ending in October 2006.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2008, 14:52
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