Normal life in B`desh disrupted amid violence

Strike has halted transport in Bangladesh and disrupted business operations.

Dhaka: Normal life in the capital and
much of Bangladesh was disrupted on Sunday as the main opposition
BNP enforced a nationwide general strike to oppose the ruling
coalition`s policies, including "compromising national
interests" by inking deals with India.

Hundreds of paramilitary troops and policemen today
patrolled the streets in the capital following reports of
violence as former premier Khaleda Zia-led opposition
Bangladesh Nationalist Party today enforced a country-wide
dawn-to-dusk general strike.

The strike is part of the BNP`s campaign against
alleged misrule of the ruling Awami League party. It also
accused the ruling coalition`s of "compromising national
interests" by inking deals with India earlier this year. It
accused the government of suppressing the opposition.

According to reports, activists of BNP torched at
least five vehicles last night, causing burns to two people,
in an apparent attempt to create panic among the public to
successfully enforce the strike against the Hasina-led

"Although no clear evidence has emerged that the
opposition is involved in the typical pre-hartal violence, it
would be widely perceived as BNP`s bid to instill fear and
panic towards a successful hartal," a private news agency
BDNews24 reported.

The State-run BSS news agency reported that over 100
activists, including five senior BNP leaders were arrested
from different areas of the city as the city witnessed clashes
between the BNP cadres and the baton wielding police.

Witnesses said the activists tried to vandalize
vehicles in Maghbazar area though most vehicles were off the
road, schools and shopping malls remained closed across the

The five detained leaders were former mayor of Dhaka
Mirza Abbas, former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin
Chowdhury, Zia`s advisers MA Mannan and Ahmed Azom Khan and
Shaheed Uddin Chowdhury Anny MP.

BNP General Secretary Khondker Delwar Hossain said
when people are spontaneously observing the shutdwon, the
police cannot be used to frustrated it.

He said a BNP lawmaker was injured during a clash
between pro- and anti-strike supporters at Dhaka University in
the capital. He demanded the release of the detained party
leaders and activists.

Authorities have deployed about 10,000 extra police
personnel alongside the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)
troops to maintain order during the strike, Dhaka Police chief
AKM Shahidul Haque said, adding that they would not prevent
BNP from observing the strike but action would be taken if
anyone tries to create anarchy.

The government earlier issued a strong note of
warning against attempts to create "anarchy" during the
shutdown, saying it had no plans to confront the pickets but
no "disorder" would be tolerated during the protests.

Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the youth wing of the
Awami League, has said it would thwart the dawn-to-dusk
general strike of BNP, triggering fears of violent clashes.

On May 19, Zia called the shudown as part of her
party`s anti-government campaign, citing a number of reasons
including "compromising national interests" by signing deals
with India during Prime Minister Sheikh New Delhi visit in

Bangladesh and India signed three agreements to
jointly combat the terror menace while New Delhi announced a
one-billion dollar line of credit to Dhaka.

India decided to give 250MW of power to Bangladesh
from the central grid while they signed a power-sharing
agreement. Bangladesh also promised not to allow its territory
to be used for terror against India.

The BNP also demanded the halt to Hasina`s reign of
"tender-grabbing and extortions by government cronies" and its
"failures" in provide utility services.

"This hartal is a warning signal for the government...
I am telling the people in power, you still have time to
correct yourself," Zia said.

General strike and shutdown are common tactics used
here by the opposition to put pressure on the government.

However, Bangladesh witnessed the last such shutdowns against
"BNP plans for a?rigged general election" in 2008, amid
mounting political tensions resulting in enforcement of a
state emergency for two years under an interim government.

An earlier UNDP report calculated that the net loss in
one day`s shutdown to around Taka 500 crore while it cost the
country 3 to 4 percent of its GDP on an average every year
between 1991 and 2000.


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