Violence in Bangladesh over crackdown on opposition

Dhaka, Nov 9 (IANS): Demonstrators and police clashed in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country after six senior opposition figures were arrested Friday and Saturday.

The arrested include Moudud Ahmed, M.K. Anwar and Rafiqul Islam, who are members of the standing committee of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in connection with anti-government protests last week, Xinhua reported.

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's advisor Abdul Awal Mintoo, her special assistant Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas and Anwar Hossain Tipu, a leader of BNP's student wing, were also arrested during a surprise crackdown on the opposition which continued Saturday.

Following the arrests, there were angry protests in Dhaka and other districts of the country. Police baton-charged angry demonstrators and dozens of vehicles were attacked and set alight in the capital and several other towns, media reports said.

In protest against the arrests, dawn-to-dusk strikes have been called in five districts Saturday, just a day before the latest shutdown called by Khaleda Zia's 18-party opposition alliance.

Police arrested the BNP leaders hours after the alliance announced another nationwide strike from Sunday to press its demand for restoration of the non-party caretaker government system to oversee the national elections slated for 2014.

After a meeting of the opposition alliance Friday evening, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary general of the main opposition party, made the announcement of a 72-hour strike Nov 10-13.

Alamgir said the opposition alliance has decided to peacefully enforce the shutdown, the announcement of which came just two days after the opposition alliance observed a 60-hour countrywide strike from Nov 4 amid violent clashes, vandalism, arson and crude bomb attacks.

Earlier, the alliance, which includes the key Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, observed a 60-hour countrywide strike from Oct 27.

Defending the arrests, Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu said the leaders have been arrested for instigating attacks on people and property during the last strike.

Jatiyo Sangshad, the country's parliament, is due to expire Jan 24, 2014 and elections reportedly should be held within 90 days before its expiry.

Since June 2011, when parliament abolished the non-party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP-led alliance has been holding mass protests demanding the reinstatement of the provision.



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