Bangladesh opposition holds anti-govt caravan
Dhaka: Bangladesh`s main opposition leader and thousands of her supporters held a cross-country caravan on Monday to demand that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s government resign and call new elections.
Khaleda Zia led more than 15,000 of her supporters from her office in the capital, Dhaka, in central Bangladesh to Sylhet city, 120 miles (192 kilometres) to the northeast, according to Zia`s spokesman, Fakhrul Islam.
Zia was to address several roadside rallies on the way to Sylhet, and the caravan was expected to reach Sylhet late Monday evening.
Riot police were monitoring the convoy of about 3,000 jeeps and minibuses, but no violence was immediately reported.
Bangladesh`s next general election is not due until 2014, but the opposition is trying to pressure the government to announce early polls.
Zia`s four-party opposition alliance has accused Hasina`s 2-year-old government of failing to control inflation and keep law and order.
Inflation has crossed 12 percent in recent months, up from 8 percent three years ago.
Meanwhile, the nation`s two stock markets have plunged, prompting street protests and clashes between police and investors. The government has blamed novice investors, saying they have bought stocks without understanding the markets.
Zia also accuses the government of failing to control prices and of unleashing a "reign of terror" by activists from its student and youth wings. The youth wings of various parties are often accused of violence.
The former prime minister has also criticised the government`s abolishment of a 15-year-old system under which elections were overseen by independent caretaker administrations after the end of a government`s five-year term. The government amended the Constitution earlier this year to eliminate the system despite opposition protests.
Hasina came to power with a landslide election victory in 2008 after a nearly two-year state of emergency. She has rejected the opposition`s demand for early elections, and says 2014 polls will be supervised by her government. The opposition fears elections will be rigged if held under government supervision.
In Bangladesh, a fragile parliamentary democracy, opposition parties often use forceful protest measures, including crippling general strikes, to harass the government.
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