Hasina to resume poll campaign despite security warnings (Second Lead)

December 23rd, 2008 - 12:53 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 22 (IANS) Amid reports of a plot to kill her, former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina Monday said she would resume her campaign for the poll due Dec 29 despite warnings from authorities. She is scheduled to travel north to Rangpur and Dinajpur districts and return home to the national capital Tuesday night after addressing several rallies, the Star Online said Monday evening.

Law enforcement agencies Monday suggested that Hasina, who heads the Awami League (AL) and a political alliance of nine parties into the ninth general election, should not wave at crowds from her vehicle during her campaign tours.

They say her waving encourages the crowd to wave back and this puts security personnel in difficulty in identifying potential security threats, especially if criminals aim a firearm at her or lob a bomb.

Members of law enforcement agencies, particularly police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have also been asking people not to wave at Hasina’s motorcade, the website of the Daily Star newspaper said.

The government agencies tasked with protecting her amid reports of a plot to kill her by Islamist radicals, also suggested that she avoid campaigns during the night.

AL sources, however, said Hasina does not want to follow the law enforcement agencies’ advice. But they admitted that the threat to her life had drastically changed her schedule at the crucial moment of electoral campaigning.

Hasina, 62, did not conduct any election campaigns even though the polls are only six days away, spending the day dividing her time visiting her ailing husband, Wajed Miah, a retired nuclear physicist, and her nephews visiting from London.

Sources at her residence and at her party confirmed earlier in the day that reports of the assassination plot had forced her to stay away from the campaign.

“Sheikh Hasina has no schedule for election campaign today, amidst the threat of assassination from an Islamist militant organisation,” the Daily Star newspaper said quoting unnamed sources at Sudha Sadan, Hasina’s residence here.

There was no official word from the AL to explain why she took a break from her gruelling poll schedule begun Dec 12, giving all parties shorter campaign time than normal.

Earlier reports had quoted Hasina, who ruled Bangladesh between 1996 and 2001, as saying that she was not scared of any assassination threats.

She was reacting to reports quoting intelligence sources at home and in neighbouring India that Islamist terrorists were planning to kill her and that a plot had been hatched by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Media reports quoted Hasina telling a rally Sunday: “You have already read in newspapers about the apprehension of attacks on me. I am the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and I am not scared of any threats.”

Hasina and her sisters were the only ones to survive the mass murder of her family, including their father and then president Mujibur Rahman, in a military-backed coup in August 1975.

Security and intelligence agencies last month warned Hasina of possible attempts on her life by extremist groups including the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the Daily Star said.

It said that the Special Security Force (SSF) had assumed responsibility for her security.

Hasina said her life was under threat “since a certain quarter is afraid of the mass surge in favour of ‘boat’, her party’s election symbol, ahead of the parliamentary election”, the Daily Star reported Monday.

She blamed her political rivals, who are also in the poll fray. “Terrorists attacked me time and again and the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party)-Jamaat alliance government patronised the attackers,” Hasina said while addressing a poll rally at Tangail.

Home Adviser (Minister) Maj Gen (retd.) M.A. Matin Sunday assured that the interim government had taken “the highest possible measures” to ensure Hasina’s safety.

“Inshallah, there will be no attack,” he told reporters, adding that the government was well prepared to tackle any situation during the elections.

RAB director general Hasan Mahmud Khandaker said they were investigating the threat reported by the Indian television channel, which quoted unnamed Indian intelligence officials.

There have been at least three attempts on the life of Hasina in the last decade.

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