Police and backers of Bangladesh’s ruling party clashed yesterday with opposition supporters, leaving at least three people dead and scores injured in different parts of the country as opposition parties try to enforce a nationwide general strike.
The protest is aimed at forcing Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to quit and for a caretaker government, made up of people not in political parties, to oversee an election due by early next year. The shutdown is to continue until tomorrow.
One activist from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party died in the southwestern district of Faridpur after security officials opened fire on stone-throwing protesters, local police official Abul Kalam said.
He said the police were forced to open fire after opposition activists attacked them in the area, which is 64km southwest of Dhaka.
Kalam said at least six others were hurt.
One backer of the ruling Awami League Party was hacked to death, reportedly by opposition activists, in Jessore, 135km west of Dhaka.
Separately, violence in the northern district of Pabna left a man belonging to the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, dead.
The dispute centers around who would oversee an election the government has to hold within the next three months. A system of caretaker governments taking people from outside the parties has been used for 15 years, but the government scrapped the method after the Supreme Court ruled that it contradicted the Constitution.
The opposition led by former Bangladeshi prime minister Khaelda Zia has demanded that the system be restored and has threatened to boycott the election. The government rejects the demand and earlier this month proposed forming an all-party government instead.
On Saturday evening, in a rare telephone call, Hasina invited her arch rival Zia to a dinner at her official residence today to discuss the issue and requested a stop to the general strike that began yesterday. Zia refused, saying she would consider the invitation after the 60-hour strike expired tomorrow evening.
Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy and the country has been alternately ruled by Hasina and Zia since 1991. However, the issue of peaceful transfers of power has remained a major challenge.
Television stations said the violence has left scores hurt across the country since Saturday, with explosions of homemade bombs reported in Dhaka and elsewhere, including bombs thrown at the official homes of two senior justices and the offices of four television stations and newspapers on Saturday.
Several vehicles were torched in Dhaka during the strike, and the Channel 24 TV station said opposition activists attacked a train and set fire to it, injuring at least 20 people in Joypurhat District, about 210km north of Dhaka.
On Friday, a similar round of violence left at least six people dead across the country.