No respite in Bangladesh violence over polls as death toll rises to 27

Pockets of violence have spread throughout the country; at least 27 people have been killed while buses defying the opposition blockade have been set alight and a senior Bangladesh Nationalist Party politician was shot in the capital, Dhaka.

No respite in Bangladesh violence over polls as death toll rises to 27

World Bulletin/News Desk

An 18-year-old man died after unidentified attackers hurled fire bombs at the vehicle in which he was travelling early on Sunday in Southern Barisal, lifting to 27 the death toll from violence in Bangladesh's deepening political crisis since last year's disputed elections.

Bangladesh's government ruled out military deployment to establish order after the latest violence surrounding a standoff between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia, leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

The violence has worsened steadily since Jan. 5, when protests erupted over last year's election, which was boycotted by the BNP.

The renewed tension between the political rivals raises the spectre of a long, destabilising spell of unrest for Bangladesh and its economy.

"There is no such situation in the country requiring the deployment of the army-led joint forces," Asaduzzaman Khan, the junior minister for home affairs, told reporters on Sunday.

The truck passenger killed on Sunday was named by police as 18-year-old Mohammad Sohag. The driver of the vehicle jumped clear and escaped with minor burn injuries.

At least 30 people, including five police officers, have been injured in attacks on vehicles in Dhaka since Saturday night.

"The culprits won't be spared," Prime Minister Hasina said on Sunday while visiting a hospital to see policemen who had sustained severe burns.

Authorities have blocked popular internet calling and messaging service Viber on security concerns, Jakir Hossain, spokesman for the Bangladesh telecoms authority said.


After almost two weeks of political instability and violence in Bangladesh there is little sign of a let-up, leaving foreign diplomats to weigh in as an attempt to break the political deadlock.

The stifling of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s program of protests on Jan. 5, which marked a year since controversial elections they boycotted, has since descended into a rolling nationwide transport blockade.

The U.N. joined the growing chorus of concern coming from the international community on Friday when it called for the political parties to resolve their dispute, which is mainly about opposition demands for fresh elections.

“The deepening political violence in Bangladesh, resulting from the failure of the two major political parties to resolve their differences peacefully, is very disturbing," Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We are concerned about the potential for the violence, which already led to deaths, injury and disruption, to spiral,” she said, pointing as particularly “disturbing” the deaths of at least four people in an attack on a bus on Wednesday.

The statement also urged the government to ensure arrests of opposition leaders were “not arbitrary” and all measures to restore law and order complied with international human rights law.

Meanwhile, diplomats of eight western countries, led by the head of the EU delegation, Pierre Mayaudon, met a group of Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders on Thursday in an attempt to broker an end to the political stand-off.

A day earlier the U.S., EU and British High Commission had circulated statements expressing concern over political situation.

The police have begun a major nationwide drive to detain protesters while the head of the official paramilitary, Bangladesh Border Guards, Major General Aziz Ahmed said on Thursday that they would fire on anyone posing a threat to the public.

The international involvement has come at a time when seemingly neither the opposition nor the ruling Awami League are willing to ease away from their positions.

Apart from violence the economy is also suffering. Millions of dollars are lost daily through the blockade, with both the agricultural and industrial sectors crippled by their inability to transport goods and material.

“It is not acceptable that day after day an abnormal crisis continues,” said international relations expert Professor Imtiaz Ahmed. “The major two political parties fail to resolve the problems and until they find a solution, the foreign intervention will continue."

Professor Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, chairman of the National Election Observation Council, pointed out that as a member of the UN, Bangladesh should expect foreign pressure.

“Bangladesh has to follow certain protocols. So different international actors who follow those protocols have addressed the situation to all political parties on the ground, so that they do not forget those protocols and international obligations,” he said.

“Democracy is the good for citizen and it is the only solution for good governance. But, we can not do whatever we want in the name of democracy,” he said.

Political analyst and editor of local newspaper Shaptahik, Golam Mortoza, said that it is a domestic, rather than international, dispute that could be solved within Bangladesh.

“The crisis is political, so it is the politicians who should resolve it,” said Mortoza. “If they don't resolve their own problems, the foreign interference will continue.”

Khaleda has demanded that Hasina give up her post, with a new vote to be held under a neutral administration. The prime minister has rejected these demands and her government has tightened its grip by arresting key opposition leaders and clamping down on media.

Hasina and Khaleda, both related to former national leaders, have nursed a long and bitter rivalry, and have dominated politics in Bangladesh for more than two decades.


Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2015, 14:16
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