Opposition strike cripples Bangladesh

Transport and businesses hit countrywide as opposition protests against government bid to amend constitution.

    The opposition says the government is attempting to steal elections by changing the constitution [EPA]

    A 36-hour general strike called by the opposition to resist government moves to amend the constitution has disrupted normal life across Bangladesh.

    The strike that began on Sunday hit transport and businesses across the country. Security forces were widely deployed with armed police and members of the elite Rapid Action Battalion guarding key government buildings in the capital, Dhaka, and in the southern port city of Chittagong.

    The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, said police broke up attempts to stage demonstrations and many of its leaders were rounded up and detained.

    "It seems like we are in a forbidden city," BNP secretary-general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

    Proposal denounced

    The BNP called the strike, the second in a week, to denounce a government proposal to rescind constitutional provisions under which the government is temporarily handed over to a non-party administration before an election.

    Under the system, in place since 1996, the ruling party hands power to a non-party caretaker authority to hold an election within three months. Power is then handed back to the newly-elected government.

    But in 2007, an army-backed interim government held on to power for two years before holding an election.

    Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister, took office in early 2009 and with general elections due in 2013, has called for the abolition of the system since the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional last month.

    But the court also said the system could remain in place for two more elections to avoid the political turmoil and violence associated with campaigns that prompted its introduction in the first place.

    The BNP and allies want the caretaker system to stay unchanged to guard against what it says would be an attempt by the prime minister's Awami League party to steal the election.

    The Awami League dismisses the opposition charges.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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