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"Ershad's wife a victim of political intrigue"

Haroon Habib

Arrest seen as attempt to prevent Opposition consolidation

DHAKA: Bidisha Ershad, the second wife of former Bangladesh President H. M. Ershad, was arrested in a coup de theatre at their posh Baridhara residence in Dhaka on Saturday.

According to police, Mr. Ershad accused his wife of trying to intimidate him, misappropriating his money and damaging valuables in their house.

She was also charged with stealing a cell phone and making threats, police told journalists. She was remand in custody for three days after a magistrate court rejected her bail plea.

Mr. Ershad was away from his house when the drama took place.

Pressure to leave country

Reports suggest that until recently, Ms. Ershad, a member of the Jatiya Party's presidium, was under pressure either to leave the country. But she refused.

Contingents of police were earlier deployed in front of Mr. Ershad's house. Newspapers, however, suggested Mr. Ershad sued his wife under pressure from the Government, which had earlier forced him to expel her from the party. In the police complaint, Mr. Ershad said his wife had embezzled Taka 7.5 lakh.

Ms. Ershad, however, said her husband's signature on the complaint was forged.

Turmoil in party

In front of dozens of journalists, a policeman showed Ms. Ershad the first information report. But she shouted, "I don't believe this."

She also tried to jump out of the window to the ground with her son Eric in a bid to commit suicide.

Sources said Mr. Ershad's first wife, Rawshan Ershad, MP, and some influential party leaders with "government connections" have been working against Ms. Bidisha Ershad ever since she joined the party.

Political observers said the turmoil in the Jatiya Party stemmed from the ruling alliance's desperate bid to prevent the Jatiya Party from joining the Awami League-led alliance.

The JP has a vote bank, especially in the northern districts.

Political observers said the dramatic arrest of Ms. Bidisha Ershad, who reportedly wanted the party to form an electoral alliance with other Opposition groups, may not be the end of the drama but the beginning.

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