The Awami League (AL)-led opposition alliance in Bangladesh has announced a countrywide agitation Sunday to press for electoral reforms and the resignation of the chief election commissioner ahead of general election next year.
The 14-party opposition combine said it would halt road, rail and river communications across the country on July 2 to press for the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Justice MA Aziz.
The opposition call comes despite sentiments expressed last week in the Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly) that it was time to call a halt to the politics of agitations, which they said was sapping the country's economy.
Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and Awami League leader Abdul Hamid agreed during the annual budget debate in parliament that it was essential to end strikes and street protests and hold talks to sort out political differences. But each put the onus on the other for it. The opposition walked out of parliament when the budget was put to vote.
International financial organisations and donor nations, besides chambers of commerce and industry and sections of the intelligentsia, have been urging all concerned in Bangladesh to end street protests.
But this has had no effect. Protests have been a recurring phenomenon in Bangladesh, whether under present Prime Minister Khaleda Zia or when her rival, Leader of Opposition and AL president Sheikh Hasina, was prime minister.
Electoral reforms refer to modalities for a caretaker government that would take charge three months before the general election, as per the constitution.
However, for the past many weeks the opposition has refused to share the talks table with leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a constituent of the ruling alliance, saying they were "war criminals" who had opposed Bangladesh's opposition movement.
Daily Star said the opposition reached a broad agreement on plans to blockade highways, rail tracks and waterways. They have warned the law enforcers that there will be stiff resistance if the latter try to foil the programme.
Sheikh Hasina announced the programme after a 36-hour countrywide shutdown on June 13-14.