Opposition brings Bangladesh to a standstill

Opposition parties in Bangladesh enforced a one-day national shutdown to press demands for electoral reforms, police said.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 12:26 IST

Opposition parties brought Bangladesh to a near-standstill on Thursday as they enforced a one-day national shutdown to press demands for electoral reforms, police said.

Cars were off the streets and schools, colleges and private offices were closed in the capital Dhaka and other main cities, district police chiefs told the agency.

A 14-party alliance of opposition parties including the main opposition Awami League wants the removal of the chief election commissioner and his two deputies whom it accuses of being pro-government.

In Dhaka, police and picketers clashed in several parts of the city and four people were arrested although no injuries were reported, said Dhaka police commissioner Mizanur Rahman.

On Wednesday police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse opposition party activists trying to stage a mass rally outside Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's office.

The alliance also wants the head of any future caretaker government to be appointed with the agreement of both main political parties -- the Awami League and Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Under the Bangladeshi electoral system a caretaker government, selected by the outgoing administration, takes over three months before parliamentary elections, which it oversees. The next caretaker government is due to begin work in October with elections scheduled for January 2007.

Zia heads a four-party Islamic-allied coalition government with a large parliamentary majority. It has held power since 2001 when it ousted an Awami League administration led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

The strike is the fifth this year. Last year the opposition called 18 strikes despite pleas from business leaders and aid donors who say the stoppages cost the impoverished country tens of millions of dollars each year.

First Published: Apr 20, 2006 12:26 IST