DHAKA, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — Demonstrators and police have clashed in Bangladesh capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country after six senior opposition figures were arrested late Friday night and early Saturday.
The arrested include Moudud Ahmed, MK Anwar and Rafiqul Islam who are members of standing committee, the highest policy-making body of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in connection with anti-government protests last week.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Advisor Abdul Awal Mintoo, her Special Assistant Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas and Anwar Hossain Tipu, a leader of BNP’s student wing, were also arrested during a surprise crackdown on opposition which continued in the early hours Saturday.
Following the arrests, there were angry scenes in the capital city and many Bangladesh districts. Police baton-charged angry demonstrators and dozens of vehicles were attacked and set alight in the capital and several other towns, news reports said.
In protest against the arrests, dawn-to-dusk strikes have been called in five districts, just before the day of the latest shutdown of Khaleda’s 18-party opposition alliance.
Police arrested the BNP leaders hours after the alliance announced another round of nationwide strike form Sunday to press its demand for restoration of the non-party caretaker government system to oversee the national elections slated for early 2014.
After a meeting of Ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s BNP-led 18- party opposition alliance on Friday evening, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary general of the main opposition party, in a press briefing made the announcement of 72-hour hartal from Nov. 10-13.
Alamgir said the opposition alliance has decided to enforce peacefully the shutdown, the announcement of which came just two days after the opposition alliance observed a 60-hour countrywide hartal from Nov. 4 morning amid violent clashes, vandalism, arson and crude bomb attacks.
Earlier Khaleda’s BNP and its 17 allies including key Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party observed a 60-hour countrywide strike from Oct. 27.
Dozens of people including the ruling and the opposition party men were dead and hundreds others injured in stray incidents of hartal violence since Oct. 27 in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.
Following the arrests the main opposition has even gone on to threaten that it will prolong the latest shutdown if their top leaders are not released immediately, fueling fears of further bloodletting.
Defending the arrests, Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu said the leaders have been arrested for instigating attacks on people and their properties during last hartal days. He said the government had no alternative but to arrest them in view of the opposition party’s possible acts of sabotage in the coming hartal days.
“It’s totally a false allegation that they (the arrested leaders) instigated violence,” BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed told Xinhua.
He said Sunday’s hartal would be extended if the detained leaders were not released immediately.
Ahmed claimed the arrests aimed at implementing government’s heinous conspiracy to hold a one-party election.
Police reportedly raided the homes of many leaders of BNP which rejected Hasina’s all-party interim government proposal.
Bangladesh Parliament is due to expire on Jan. 24 next year and elections reportedly should be held within 90 days before its expiry.
The two leading leaders of South Asian country’s politics held phone talks on Oct. 26, the first direct conversation between the two leaders of the South Asian country’s politics since January, 2009 when Hasina cabinet took oath of office.
Although both the parties are seeking dialogue to end impasse over the formation of the polls-time government, but no headway is being made so far.
Khaleda has asked Hasina’s AL to bring back the caretaker system, or else it won’t participate in the next polls because it fears an election without the caretaker government will not be free and fair.
Despite the main opposition alliance’s threat to boycott elections, Bangladesh ruling coalition has initiated moves to form an all-party polls-time interim cabinet in line with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s proposal.
Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, one of the influential members of Hasina cabinet, said on Tuesday: “We’ll submit our resignation letters to prime minister in a week.”
In the cabinet meeting on Monday, ministers reportedly decided that they will resign in the next seven days to pave way for the formation of the all-party polls-time government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Since June 2011 when Bangladesh Parliament abolished the non- party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP- led alliance has been waging mass protests demanding for the reinstatement of the provision.