Strike shuts down Bangladesh for second day
Dhaka: Bangladesh was shut down by a nationwide anti-government strike for a second day running on Thursday, after the first day of protests left dozens injured and at least 27 jailed.
Almost all shops and businesses were closed, roads were empty and transport between the capital and other cities was cut. Cargo deliveries were also suspended at the country`s main port in Chittagong.
Security was tight with more than 13,000 policemen and the elite Rapid Action Battalion forces deployed in Dhaka. In Chittagong, the country`s second biggest city, 1,500 police were on patrol.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies have enforced the 48-hour strike since Wednesday morning to protest against changes to the electoral system that they say unfairly favour the incumbent government.
On Wednesday, dozens of people were injured including a senior opposition figure during clashes with police in Dhaka and elsewhere.
Joynal Abedin Faruk, the BNP chief whip, sustained serious head injuries during violent protests and was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Dhaka hospital, medical staff said.
Television footage showed a heavily bleeding Faruk being chased by baton-wielding riot police.
Fazlul Haq of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police said at least 27 people were jailed including two given one-year terms by magistrates handing out on-the-spot justice to unruly protesters.
"At least 52 people were arrested over charges of violence and law-breaking in the 24 hours to Thursday morning," Haq said, adding that in Dhaka 14 vehicles -- most of them buses -- had been torched.
In 1996, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended to appoint neutral caretaker administrations to oversee elections.
Although the system has delivered four fair elections in a country with a long history of political violence, it was scrapped last month after the government said it had allowed the Army to take over in January 2007.
BNP leader Khaleda Zia has said her right-of-centre party would not contest future polls unless the caretaker system is reintroduced.
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