Bangladesh High Court orders govt to take steps against protests

Bangladesh High Court on Sunday ordered the government to take "effective action" to stop the ongoing anti-government protests as the current wave of unrest claimed over 100 lives since opposition leader Khaleda Zia's BNP launched a non-stop nationwide blockade on January 6.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 15, 2015, 20:18 PM IST

Dhaka: Bangladesh High Court on Sunday ordered the government to take "effective action" to stop the ongoing anti-government protests as the current wave of unrest claimed over 100 lives since opposition leader Khaleda Zia's BNP launched a non-stop nationwide blockade on January 6.

A two-judge bench comprising Justices Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Abu Taher Md Saifur Rahman issued the order on a writ petition filed by a businessman seeking the higher judiciary's intervention to protect people's life as well as businesses.

"The state functionary must (also) take effective action against those who are trying to create obstacles in holding the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations by enforcing hartal (strike) and blockade," the court order said.

Businesses were demanding a legislation to outlaw general strikes and blockades as their calls to stop violence to save the economy went unheeded.

The order paves way to conduct SSC exams as the blockade earlier forced authorities to defer the exams for four times in which some 1.5 million students are expected to appear.

The unrest witnessed massive casualties as the suspected blockaders or the hired goons continued to carryout firebomb attacks on passenger buses. Reports said over 50 people have been killed and a few hundred others injured in arson attacks on buses or trucks so far.

The government had earlier offered bounty encouraging people to track down the culprits while over a dozen of alleged arsonists were killed in what officials said 'encounters' with law enforcement agencies.

The High Court directive came as the opposition leader and ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 20 party righting coalition with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami began to enforce a fresh 72-hour nationwide stoppage to go hand in hand with the blockade.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week assigned a senior official to broker a peace initiative as continued unrest saying, "we are very much concerned about the violence and loss of life (there)."

Zia launched the fierce campaign coinciding with the first anniversary of January 5, 2014 elections, which BNP had boycotted virtually giving a walkover to ruling Awami League.