| A family walks past a poster of former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia in Dhaka on Saturday. (AFP)
Dhaka, Jan. 13 (AP): Bangladeshi police and soldiers arrested more than 2,500 people and raided the homes of several political leaders after a new caretaker government was sworn in to quell deadly unrest ahead of elections, police and news reports said today.
Security forces arrested 2,552 people across the country last night on “various charges”, said a statement released today by police headquarters in Dhaka.
The arrests came after the President on Thursday declared a state of emergency, delayed elections, and stepped down as head of a caretaker government to end street demonstrations alleging the upcoming vote was rigged.
Yesterday, President Iajuddin Ahmed swore in respected economist Fakhruddin Ahmed to replace him as head of the country’s caretaker government, mandated to steer the nation through elections. The President said balloting has been deferred from the scheduled January 22 date.
A 19-party political alliance led by a former Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, had threatened to boycott and disrupt the vote unless the President stepped aside as the head of the caretaker government and election reforms were put in place.
Election commission official Mihir Sarwar Murshed said today that the commission has suspended all election-related activities. He did not elaborate.
Soon after the new caretaker government chief was appointed, the alliance withdrew a planned series of transport blockades and strikes.
The Prothom Alo newspaper reported authorities detained some local politicians throughout Bangladesh, but no prominent leaders were arrested. Troops and police also raided the homes of some political leaders’ aides suspected of criminal activities or corruption, but made no arrests, the newspaper said.
The politicians were from both sides of the election dispute, the newspaper said.
Police said today a former lawmaker, Kamal Majumder, was arrested the day before and has been jailed in Dhaka.
Soldiers arrested him at his Dhaka home, said police official Jasim, who uses only one name. Jasim would not name the charge. Majumder belongs to the Awami League party, a key force behind the election protests. No new date has been set for the elections.
A four-party coalition led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, meanwhile, said it hoped that the emergency would be temporary. “I hope all necessary steps will be taken as early as possible to hand over power to people’s elected representatives,” coalition spokesman Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said.