Dhaka: Bangladesh's main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), at a mass rally in the capital Monday set a 90-day ultimatum for the government to restore the caretaker government system by amending the constitution.
The opposition also called a dawn-to-dusk countrywide strike March 29 protesting the government's attempts to bar its activists from joining Monday's rally, the Daily Star reported.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia said that if the demand was not met by the deadline, the opposition will announce tougher agitation programmes after a grand rally to be held in the capital June 11.
Zia said the government severed Dhaka from the rest of the country due to the rally but failed to prevent people from attending the gathering.
"Whenever we plan programmes, you (government) prevent us again and again," she said.
The rally began at 1.30 p.m. with a recitation from the Quran. Senior party leaders delivered speeches, criticising the government.
The BNP had announced in January the "Dhaka Cholo" programme, aimed at pressing the government to restore the constitutional provision for the caretaker government system to oversee the next general elections slated for 2014.
The expansion of the BNP-led alliance was expected to be announced at the rally.
Currently, the alliance comprises the BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP) and Khelafat Majlish.
The new parties likely to join the alliance are the Liberal Democratic Party, Kalyan Party, Jatiya Ganatantrik Party, National People's Party, National Awami Party, Labour Party, Islamic Party, National Democratic Party and Muslim League.
In the morning, the usually bustling streets of the capital were almost empty as public transportation remained off the roads. People mostly travelled by cycle-rickshaws, reported Xinhua.
Police and workers of the ruling party -- the Awami League -- and its allies, brandished bamboos and hockey sticks, and barred people from entering the city for the rally.
Road and river communications between Dhaka and other parts of the country has been affected since Sunday. No long-distance buses left or entered the capital Monday while ferry services also remained suspended.
BNP leader Zainul Abdin Farroque said the government enforced "unofficial curfew" in Dhaka.
First Published: Monday, March 12, 2012, 23:20