Bangladesh ups security for handove

DHAKA, Reuters

Armed Bangladeshi riot police set up security posts at key points in the capital Dhaka on Saturday ahead of the expected appointment of a caretaker ruler to lead the country to new elections.

The security beef-up followed the dissolution of parliament late on Friday at the end of its five-year term and threats by opposition parties to impose “people’s rule” unless the caretaker authority takes over immediately.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will hand over power to a caretaker authority, expected to be headed by immediate past chief justice Latifur Rahman, who was due to be sworn in by President Shahabuddin Ahmed on Sunday.

Hasina’s government will be the first in Bangladesh’s history to serve its full term.

The constitution requires that power is handed to a non-party caretaker authority which will organize elections within three months.

Fears of violence have grown since four people were killed and about 100 wounded in sporadic clashes on Thursday and Friday between activists of Hasina’s Awami League and others loyal to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, Hasina’s predecessor in power.

Hasina has promised an orderly transfer of power and to keep trying to uphold democracy.

Khaleda told thousands of supporters in Dhaka on Friday night that the “nation feels relieved that Hasina’s autocratic rule has ended”.

“The country’s administration will be taken over by the people if the appointment of a caretaker government is delayed,” she said.

Paramilitary forces have been called out in several cities including the Chittagong port city to reinforce security.

In the capital, police barricaded roads leading to the often volatile Dhaka University and let teachers and students through only after checking identity cards and bags, witnesses said.

University officials said student supporters of Hasina and Khaleda were preparing for a campus battle on Saturday.

Students play a key role in Bangladeshi politics and rival groups regularly fight each other for control of their campuses.