press trust of india
Dhaka, 25 October
Five protesters were killed and over 300 injured as workers of the main Opposition BNP today clashed with security forces during rallies across Bangladesh demanding a neutral caretaker government to oversee the next general election.
BNP chief Khaleda Zia, addressing a massive rally here, issued an ultimatum to her archrival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to initiate talks on her demand. The former prime minister said if the demand was not accepted, the party would enforce a 60-hour nationwide strike from 27 October.
Two demonstrators were killed in Cox’s Bazar when security personnel fired at BNP supporters. Two more were killed in central Chandpur district when protesters clashed with security forces. One protester died in Jaldhaka when Rapid Action Battalion personnel opened fire at supporters of the rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of the BNP.
Violence also erupted in different parts of Bangladesh, including southwestern Patuakhali, leaving over 300 people injured.
Security across the country was tightened in view of parallel rallies announced by the BNP and the ruling Awami League.
“We give you (the government) two days time… unless you take steps for dialogue within the period, a 60-hour hartal (strike) will be observed across the country from October 27,” Zia told the rally at Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Udyan.
Activists of the Jamaat-e-Isami joined the rally in huge numbers.
Begum Zia said the government would turn “illegal” as of Friday, citing a legal provision that requires a neutral caretaker government to be set up three months before polls. “But if the government comes up with positive proposals for a dialogue, we will continue the negotiations but also continue the movement on the streets,” she said.
Awami League spokesman Mohammad Nasim criticised Begum Zia for “opting for confrontation” and asked her to withdraw the strike call. “Sheikh Hasina will call you any time to invite you for talks (as she said earlier),” he said after the ruling party staged a counter rally in front of its central office at Bangabandhu Avenue here.