DHAKA: Bangladesh’s former military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad was led away from his home by security forces early Friday, days after he pulled his party out of next month’s elections.
A senior officer of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said the 83-year-old was only being taken for a check-up, but a top aide said Ershad had been arrested.
Video footage aired by Bangladesh’s Channel 24 network showed scores of his supporters trying to prevent the SUV carrying Ershad from driving away from the upmarket Baridhara suburb of Dhaka, some of them weeping.
Colonel Kismat Hayat, an RAB commander, said Ershad had been taken at his own request.
“He asked us to take him to the Combined Military Hospital for medical check-up,” Hayat told AFP.
“We took him there. We did not detain him.”
But Kazi Firoz Rashid, a senior leader of Ershad’s Jatiya Party, disputed that the former strongman was unwell.
“He has been arrested,” Rashid told AFP.
“I was with him only a hour beforehand. Had he been sick they would bring an ambulance to take him to hospital.”
Ershad announced last week that his party would not take part in the January 5 polls and pulled his followers out of an interim government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The decision further undermined the credibility of a contest which is also being boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Ershad then threatened to kill himself last Thursday after security forces besieged his home following his boycott decision.
Ershad ruled Bangladesh from 1982-90 before he was ousted in a popular revolt.
Despite the boycotts, as well as widespread political violence, the ruling Awami League is so far insisting the elections will go ahead as scheduled.