Former Bangladeshi military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad threatened to kill himself yesterday after security forces besieged his home following his decision to boycott next month’s elections.
“I have loaded four pistols and I’ve told the government that if they play any tricks with me, I will kill myself,” Ershad told a local television crew during an interview inside his home in the early hours.
“I will die before the RAB [Rapid Action Battalion] or the police can lay a finger on me,” he said, before making a trigger-pulling gesture toward his head.
The 83-year-old on Tuesday said that he would not take part in the Jan. 5 polls, further undermining the credibility of a contest that is also being boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies.
Large numbers of security forces then gathered on Wednesday outside his home in the upmarket Baridhara neighborhood of the capital, Dhaka, fueling predictions the general was about to be arrested.
However, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Lutful Kabir said that officers were deployed in the neighborhood “to enhance security” around foreign embassies in Baridhara.
Ershad’s secretary, Khaled Akhter, said that the RAB and plainclothes officers were still massed outside the general’s home yesterday morning, although the numbers had thinned slightly.
Despite the boycotts by Ershad’s Jatiya party and the BNP, as well as widespread political violence, the ruling Awami League is so far insisting the elections will go ahead as scheduled on Jan. 5.
However, there is strong pressure from key foreign players, including from the US, for a compromise between the parties that could lead to the polls being pushed back.
The BNP and its smaller Islamist allies have demanded that Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quit and make way for a neutral caretaker government that would oversee the polls to prevent cheating.
As part of its push to force Hasina to stand aside, the opposition has enforced a series of strikes and transport blockades since late October.
There have been widespread clashes between police and opposition supporters, which have claimed the lives of at least 67 people in the last six weeks.