Bangladesh arrests key opposition figure after poll protest

Clashes between competing political parties reported throughout Bangladesh on first anniversary of controversial 2014 general election.

Bangladesh arrests key opposition figure after poll protest

World Bulletin/News Desk

Bangladesh on Tuesday arrested a key opposition figure and deployed thousands of police as opposition protests entered a second day, after four activists were killed and scores were injured on the first anniversary of last year's disputed polls.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cracked down on displays of anti-government sentiment in the capital, Dhaka, as opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia stepped up calls for fresh elections.

Police used teargas and rubber bullets to scatter protesters in Dhaka and elsewhere.

"We had to use teargas and rubber bullets to disperse opposition activists after they smashed nearly a dozen vehicles and set off blasts," said Khayrul Fazal, a police official in the northeastern district of Sylhet.

Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgir of Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was detained on Tuesday as he stepped out of Dhaka's National Press Club, where he had taken shelter, police said.

"He was arrested in specific cases," police official Mashiur Rahman said, without elaborating.

Last January, Hasina's Awami League came to power for a second consecutive term after violent elections boycotted by the BNP, provoking criticism from international observers over the poll's legitimacy.

On Monday, Khaleda, who said she had been unlawfully detained inside her Dhaka office since the weekend, called for an indefinite nationwide transport blockade after the government foiled rallies by her to mark the election anniversary, which it had dubbed "democracy killing day."

Prime Minister Hasina denied that Khaleda, a longtime political rival, was being held against her will. The government said it had provided extra security at the opposition leader's office for her protection.

In a televised address on Monday night, Hasina rejected calls to step down and urged Khaleda to shun the violence.

THREE KILLED

Three people were killed in sporadic clashes across Bangladesh Monday as the country’s prime minister and opposition leader traded barbs on the first anniversary of last year's controversial elections.

The local news website, bdnews24.com, reported that two supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party were shot dead during clashes in the northern city of Natore, while another was killed in Rajshahi, also in the north.

Local television channels showed clashes between supporters of the rival parties throughout the country on the first anniversary of Jan. 5, 2014 elections, which were preceded by violence and a dispute about vote-rigging that led to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotting the vote.

"The path you (opposition leader Khaleda Zia) are following will not bring any benefit for the people. Instead you will lose public faith and confidence," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who leads the ruling Awami League party, said in a televised statement.

"People want security, peace and progress. We want to come out of the vicious circle of evil politics. We want to establish the politics of welfare," Hasina said.  

"The program announced by the BNP was basically a peaceful protest about the restoration of democracy," said Mahfuz Ullah, a Dhaka-based political analyst. "The way the government handled the program was undemocratic."

He said the government should hold dialogue with opposition parties about fresh elections.

"The election has created a major wound and if you don't heal the wound, the country cannot move forward," he said.

Muntasir Mamun, a history professor at Dhaka University, blamed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the violence, highlighting its alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

"It is very difficult to understand this sort of day, but we are used to it," said Mamun. "The situation will not improve. This stride will go on unless the BNP believes in Bangladeshi ideals and leaves Jamaat-e-Islami, which are major Pakistani stooges."

Jamaat-e-Islami fought against Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971. Recently, a local tribunal found several leaders of the party guilty of war crimes committed during the independence war.

Mamun also said the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party demands for an unelected caretaker government were impossible because it would contradict the constitutional requirement for a democratic government.

Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2015, 15:42
Add Comment