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Police ‘detain’ Ershad
- Former ruler whisked from home to military hospital

Dhaka, Dec. 13 (PTI): Bangladesh’s former military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad was whisked away from his home by security forces early today and admitted to a military hospital here.

It comes after the 83-year-old former dictator’s dramatic decision to boycott next month’s general elections.

According to a top Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) official, Ershad was only being taken for a check-up.

There was speculation that Ershad, whose Jatiya Party is a key ally of the Awami League-led grand alliance, was “detained” as part of the government’s efforts to force him to participate in the January 5 polls.

However, the RAB media wing director, Habibur Rahman, told news channel Bdnews24 that Ershad was at home when he fell sick. “The personnel guarding his residence took him to the hospital after they were told of his feeling sick.”

Witnesses said a joint team of police and RAB entered his “President’s Park” residence and virtually whisked him to an SUV, fuelling speculation that Ershad was arrested.

Jatiya Party activists scuffled with security personnel who took Ershad to the Combined Military Hospital.

Television footage showed a grim-faced Ershad sitting in the backseat of the SUV wearing a red sweater as the convoy of police and RAB vans drove off. “It is mysterious, I was with him (Ershad) until the evening...he was in good health and also took part in his routine physical exercise,” Ershad’s press secretary Sunil Subho Roy told reporters.

The former military ruler, who was ousted in 1990 after his nine-year rule, returned to the limelight earlier this month when he announced his party would stay way from the polls due to lack of a proper atmosphere.

Ershad’s dramatic shift worsens the problems the interim government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina faces at a time when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has also announced it will boycott the polls.

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