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Central & South Asia

General strike called after Bangladesh unrest

At least two killed and dozens hurt during opposition rallies demanding caretaker system to oversee next year's polls.
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2012 16:57

Bangladeshi opposition parties have called a general strike after at least two people were killed in clashes during nationwide road blockades demanding a caretaker government to ensure elections due in 2014 are fair.

Police and witnesses said at least two people were killed and more than 200 injured in Sunday's violence in the capital, Dhaka, and a number of other districts.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary-general of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), called for the daylong stoppage on Tuesday in protest against what he said were government atrocities committed against political activists during the protests.

The BNP, which leads an 18-party alliance and is led by Khaleda Zia, former prime minister, had enforced the eight-hour road blockades, which ended at 2pm (08:00 GMT).

The opposition has threatened to boycott the 2014 polls unless a caretaker administration is installed beforehand.

The ruling coalition, led by the Awami League, says the caretaker system, made up of unelected persons, cannot be reinstated as it violates democratic values.

It offered opposition parties the chance to join an election-time "all-party" government to hold a credible poll under a stronger election authority.

Violence in Dhaka

A protester was killed during Sunday's clashes between opponents and supporters of the government in Sirajganj district, 104km northwest of Dhaka, Wahid Zaman, local police chief, said.

He did not provide details.

In Dhaka, one protester was killed by a speeding bus as some demonstrators tried to stop it, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Police said they fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up several hundred protesters in Dhaka's southern Jatrabari district.

The demonstrators responded by throwing bricks.

Opposition activists clashed with police in Dhaka and, elsewhere, set fire to vehicles, put barricades on national highways and burnt tyres and threw bricks and homemade bombs during the blockade.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the picketers, who clashed with officers and anti-blockade activists from the Awami League in different places.

As many as 100 opposition activists were detained.

In elections since 1996, the sitting Bangladesh government has stepped down before the vote to allow a neutral caretaker government to oversee the polling.

The system was designed to prevent the party in power from attempting to manipulate the vote. But the Awami League-led ruling coalition scrapped that system after a court ruling in June 2011.

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