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9 killed in Bangladesh's political clash

Over a thousand people have also been injured following breakdown in the parleys to choose PM Zia's successor.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2006 23:03 IST

Political violence engulfed capital Dhaka and other places in Bangladesh on Saturday with at least nine people dead and over a thousand reported injured in overnight clashes between supporters of the coalition government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the opposition.

Zia completed five years of her tenure on Friday and was scheduled to quit office on Saturday. However, her exit was delayed following a breakdown in the parleys to choose her successor.

Pitched battles were reported in Paltan area after the prime minister warned the opposition at a rally onFriday night not to create anarchy, adding her party's activists would counter it, The Daily Star newspaper said.

BBC reported a clash at a meeting ground between workers of the opposition Awami League (AL) and the rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami, which is part of the ruling coalition.

Two Jamaat men shot at an Awami League worker that provoked the Awami League activists to beat them to death. Both sides openly used firearms, The Daily Star said.

Similar acts of violence were reported from across the country. The army, asked to stand by on full alert, moved 40 tanks from Chittagong to Dhaka as part of the vigil, according to reports.

The constitution, that stipulates that Zia quit the office three months before the election, gives her a 15-day grace period. Zia was keen on handing over power to a chief advisor, or caretaker, as per the constitution. But the opposition protested her choice, retired Chief Justice of Bangladesh, KM Hasan.

According to reports, when Zia called on him on Friday evening, President Iajuddin Ahmed refused to swear in Hasan. Hasan also reported 'sick', as per media reports.

On Saturday, he conveyed his unwillingness to take up the position in a letter to Ahmed.

The president then invited Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and his AL counterpart Abdul Jalil to Bangabhaban. There was no word about any outcome by Saturday evening.

Having consulted them, and after studying the situation, the president would be free to take a decision on the appointment of the chief advisor and 10 advisors to govern the country till after the elections due in January.

Zia said the transfer of power would go ahead but she did not indicate when she would quit.

The problem boils down to finding a person for the chief advisor's job after Hasan's refusal.

A likely choice is MA Aziz, another retired judge who is the country's chief election commissioner. He, however, is seen as a controversial man, having defied at one stage, the Supreme Court order to update the voters' list in time for the elections.

First Published: Oct 28, 2006 21:33 IST