DHAKA: Bangladesh’s army-backed interim government has barred party colleagues from visiting former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, a spokesman for the politician said on 20 June.
Police have not allowed anyone except Hasina’s close relatives to enter her Dhaka residence since Tuesday evening.
“We are not allowed to go in, as if Sheikh Hasina is under house arrest,” press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told Reuters.
A senior police officer said security around the residence of Hasina, top leader of the Awami League, and that of Begum Khaleda Zia, her bitter rival and head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had been tightened following what he said had been visible commotions in their parties over proposed reforms.
Groups of leaders and activists have been meeting separately over proposals for internal party reform in both parties.
The BNP has yet to comment on increased security around Khaleda’s residence at the Dhaka garrison, where normal security is tighter than any other place.
“The government should say clearly what has happened, why we are not allowed to meet Hasina,” Motia Chowdhury, a senior Awami League official, told reporters.
The two main political groupings, under pressure over charges of corruption and abuse of power, are expected soon to announce internal reforms aimed at curbing the powers of the party chiefs.
The move comes amid a nationwide crackdown on corruption launched by the military-backed interim administration. More than 170 political figures from both the Awami League and the BNP have been detained.
Officials close to Hasina and Khaleda said both were ready to face the reform proposals at party conventions to be held as soon as the interim authority lifts its ban on indoor political events. The government has yet to say when this might be.
“We are working to hold a credible election, so before the election we will lift the ban when the situation permits,” Mainul Husein, adviser to the interim government and head of the law and information ministries, told reporters.
Supporters of the two women, who have long wielded absolute power within their parties, said the internal reforms were being carried out under pressure from the interim administration.
But a senior government official said on 19 June the government had nothing to do with the so-called party reforms.
Since January Bangladesh has been run by an army-backed interim government which cancelled an election due on Jan. 22 amid bloody street clashes and banned all political activity.
The government is headed by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed, who has vowed to cleanse politics of corruption before holding a free, credible election around the end of 2008.
Hasina and Khaleda say they are being unfairly targeted and deny the accusations of corruption and power abuse.