48-hour 'hartal' shutdown hits Bangladesh capital

Dhaka shutdown adds to ongoing hartal in commercial city Chittagong and ongoing nationwide transport blockade.

48-hour 'hartal' shutdown hits Bangladesh capital
World Bulletin / News Desk
 
 Bangladesh's opposition have begun a 48-hour shutdown in the capital, Dhaka, on Thursday, as they continue a chaotic campaign of nationwide protests. 

The shutdown, known as a hartal, is also being enforced in the southwestern region of Khulna and has come a day after a similar 36-hour shutdown began in the country's commercial port city, Chittagong. 

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party also continued to enforce a nationwide transport blockade which has entered its third consecutive week. 

At least 25 people have been killed and dozens injured in more than two weeks of political instability, mainly in petrol bomb attacks on passenger buses defying the transport blockade. 

At the same time, the party’s student wing Jatiyatabadi Chatra Dal called for a nationwide strike in educational institutions on Wednesday through Thursday.

The move to hold regional hartals at different times marks a breakaway from the traditional tactic of nationwide shutdowns and appears to have made the political situation more unpredictable. 

"Blockade, strikes and violence are the outburst of a critical crisis. I consider it as a disease. So, it is important now to treat the disease, not its symptoms," said Dr. Badiul Alam Mazumder, the country director of The Hunger Project in Bangladesh. "It is also important to ensure people’s fundamental rights, until then, these blockades, strikes, violence can not be stopped."

"The solution of these problems only can be found through proper dialogue," he said. 

The political unrest began around the Jan. 5 anniversary of controversial 2014 elections, which the Bangladesh Nationalist Party opposed and boycotted. 

The party began its blockade campaign after hundreds of police were stationed outside of the party leader Khaleda Zia's office which, according to Zia, prevented her from attending planned protests. 

Despite the police cordon being lifted on Monday, Zia announced the transport blockade will continue indefinitely. 

The U.N. and foreign diplomats have issued numerous statements and held meetings with party leaders urging them to swiftly end the political crisis. 

Meanwhile, press freedom activists have protested the government's decision to block popular social messaging services which it claimed were being used by the opposition leadership to coordinate arson attacks through the country. 

Local group Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum was joined in its criticism of the communication block by the International Federation of Journalists in a statement on Wednesday.

“The arbitrary blocking of communication services is against the principles of freedom of expression and an attempt by the Government to control information flows. The IFJ urges the Bangladeshi Government to withdraw the block immediately," said the federation's Asia-Pacific director Jane Worthington. 

Bangladesh's economy also continues to be hit will millions of dollars of daily losses, with both the agricultural and industrial sectors crippled by their inability to transport goods and material.

A gas station owner on the Dhaka–Chittagong highway, Abdul Mannan, said the blockade has severely hit his business and puts him in danger of not meeting bank loan repayments. 

"Sales have dropped to zero, whereas the daily average sales has been a couple of hundred thousand Takas ($2500)," he said.

 

Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2015, 11:23
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