The head of Bangladesh's largest opposition party, the BNP,
accused the government today of being involved in the killing
or disappearance of more than 300 activists around the time
of the country's election.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the
violence-plagued vote on January 5 that was won by the ruling
Awami League - its great rivals which the BNP has alternated
power with over the decades.
The government had no specific response to the accusation but
said such BNP allegations had previously been found to be
Begum Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister, said her party
had details of 242 supporters who had been killed and 60 who
had disappeared between Dec. 26 and Jan. 27, as well as
another 22,000 who had been arrested.
"The activities of plainclothes security forces have
significantly increased after the election," Khaleda told
reporters. "They (the government) are sponsoring state run
terrorism to wipe out the opposition's leaders and
Such accusations are relatively common in the intense
rivalry, and often violent confrontations, of Bangladesh's
politics. It is difficult to verify either side's
allegations, but it has sometimes turned out that the numbers
involved are inflated.
Mashiur Rahman, an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,
told Reuters: "They make these type of accusations
frequently, when we have previously investigated such claims,
we find they are not true."
Many BNP leaders are in jail or in hiding, and party chief
Khaleda has said she was kept under virtual house arrest for
more than two weeks until mid-January.
Rahman said at that time Khaleda had been prevented from
leaving her residence because she had called on activists to
carry out violence to resist the election.
U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch urged the government last
month to ensure proper control of the security forces and
hold a credible investigation into any deaths.
Nearly 150 people have been killed in election-related
violence in recent months, from both sides of the political
The vote was shunned by international observers as flawed and
derided as a farce by the BNP.
The impasse between the country's two dominant parties
undermines the poll's legitimacy and is fuelling worries of
economic stagnation and further violence in the impoverished
South Asian nation of 160 million.