Bangladesh political violence grips country as election looms
After weeks of tension, protests and bloodshed have erupted in Bangladesh, leaving the country on edge ahead of January’s general election.
At least two opposition supporters were killed last Sunday when a massive rally against the government turned violent, leading to the arrest of several senior opposition leaders.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been called upon to resign by the revitalized main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
BNP and its allies demand a neutral interim government ahead of the general elections, arguing that Ms Hasina cannot guarantee free and fair elections. This demand has been rejected by the government led by her Awami League.
A BNP rally in Dhaka attracted tens of thousands of people, the biggest gathering there in a decade.
It didn’t take long for things to turn violent.
Stones and bricks were thrown by opposition supporters while the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. The capital’s streets were littered with exploded sound grenades, tear gas shells, and broken glass.
The two sides accuse each other of starting the violence.
In addition to attacking police and journalists, hospitals, ambulances, and the homes of the chief justice and other judges, opposition supporters caused chaos, said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.
According to senior party leader Amir Khasru, it was a peaceful and non-violent rally, but the government decided to disrupt the meeting.
It looked like a war zone. The rally had to be stopped midway due to attacks from two sides.”
Government supporters are accused of provocating opposition activists attending the rally, but the Awami League denies this claim.
Tuesday marked the beginning of a three-day nationwide blockade called by the BNP in protest of the police action.