Bangladesh opposition stages mass hunger strike
Dhaka: Thousands of opposition activists led by BNP chief and ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia on Sunday staged a rally and a mass hunger strike here demanding the release of 33 of their senior leaders and reinstatement of the caretaker government system in Bangladesh.
"There is no problem if you don't want to call it 'caretaker government', but no election will be allowed under the party government," Zia told the rally, which was called to demand that authorities release 33 detained party stalwarts and trace a mysteriously disappeared leader.
Zia said her party was ready to sit in dialogue of archrival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League under "specific and written agenda" on the interim non-party government system.
"If the government does not respond to the dialogue proposal, we know it well how to wage movement to realise the demand," she said.
The opposition proposal came four days after 33 stalwarts of party and BNP-led 18-party alliance including BNP's acting secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir were sent to jail for "masterminding" violence during an nationwide stoppage late last month.
The opposition in recent weeks enforced a series of countrywide general strike demanding that the government find out missing BNP organizing secretary Ilias Ali, who the opposition feared a victim of "forced disappearance" by the government intelligence agencies.
Bangladesh in June last year had amended the country's constitution for the 15th time scrapping the interim caretaker government system for overseeing general elections in line with a Supreme Court verdict invalidating the system.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in May 10, 2011, however, said the next tenth and eleventh parliamentary elections set for 2014 and 2019 "might be" held under the existing system which prescribed the immediate past chief justice to be the head or "chief adviser" of the caretaker governments.
But Awami League preferred the system be scrapped immediately while Zia said the development made political confrontation "indispensable" as "this amounts to waging war against the people by dint of sheer power".