Clashes kill one as strike hits Bangladesh

By AFP
Published: March 7, 2013
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Bangladesh Awami League activists march against a strike called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Dhaka on March 7, 2013

Bangladesh Awami League activists march against a strike called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Dhaka on March 7, 2013

DHAKA: A young ruling party activist was beaten to death during clashes in northwestern Bangladesh Thursday as a nationwide strike called by the opposition shut schools and businesses across the country.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party enforced the strike to protest at police firing on a rally on Wednesday, when at least two senior party officials were hit by rubber bullets in front of the BNP headquarters.

It was the 12th such strike called this year by the BNP and its ally the Jamaat-e-Islami party, in protest against a controversial tribunal trying their leaders for crimes during the 1971 war which won independence from Pakistan.

The stoppages hit businesses, deliveries of exports and imports to and from seaports and the transport of farm products from rural areas, among other areas.

In the most recent clashes, violence broke out between rival political activists from the BNP, Jamaat and the ruling Awami League in the town of Bholarhat on Thursday, local police chief Shahid Suhrawardy told AFP.

“A 25-year-old young man who is a member of Awami League’s youth wing died on the spot after he was beaten by BNP and Jamaat supporters,” Suhrawardy said.

Several people were injured in the clashes, he added.

The killing raised the death toll to 84 since the first war crimes verdict was announced on January 21. Sixty-eight of the total have died in the past week, since Jamaat’s vice-president Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced on February 28 to hang.

Security was tight in the capital Dhaka with about 10,000 policemen on patrol. Schools and businesses were closed, while roads and inter-city motorways were largely empty.

Police “picked up” four female lawmakers from the BNP outside its headquarters in central Dhaka, city police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP. “I can’t confirm whether they were arrested,” he said.

Three convictions by the state-appointed tribunal have triggered the worst violence in the impoverished country since independence, hitting economic growth and raising concern over political stability.

The war crimes proceedings against a dozen Jamaat and BNP leaders have opened old wounds and divided the nation, with the opposition accusing the government of staging a witch-hunt.

The government, which says the 1971 war claimed three million lives, rejects the claims and accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias blamed for much of the carnage during the war.

Independent estimates put the death toll much lower.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Reaz Hassan
    Mar 7, 2013 - 8:07PM

    The Awami League government has created an unsustainable and suffocating environment by polluting every state organ and by encouraging deep cleavages within the society at all levels. Though theoretically it professes democracy, its essential character is autocratic ever since the days of Sheikh Muhibur Rahman in the 1970’s. The party is intolerant of dissent, and is extraordinarily ruthless in silencing all opposition through repressive measures which are outrageous, morally indefensible and totally unsupportable. In the past couple of days, government forces and party hoodlums under their cover have extinguished the life blood of over hundred persons, shot over five hundred, and have committed sacrileges (committing arson, burning national flag, shaheed miners and Hindu temples) which many believe are of their own making. Claiming the sole heirloom to the great liberation war of 1971, they have angered the people and especially the freedom fighters outside its ambit. Their myopic view of historical events and tribal mentality of exclusiveness (by disregarding 60 per cent of the countrymen) may confer temporary on them costly gains but it is nevertheless a very risky, dangerous and unwinnable game. Political pundits would rather recommend abandoning their short sighted policies by adopting national reconciliation processes by opening up a constructive dialogue with a positive and open mind with the main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Being the government in power, it has to show maturity, prudence, reasonableness, insight, understanding and wisdom. Hasina has to ascend above partisan interests for the sake of peace, prosperity and stability of the country under a democratic dispensation.

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  • Lala Gee
    Mar 7, 2013 - 9:02PM

    I thought Bangladeshi women wear ‘Saaries’, but how come they were wearing ‘Shalwar-Qameez’ instead. Did I miss something, or they still follow the Pakistani fashion? Strange thing, especially for Awami League activists.

    P.S. Sheikh Hasina is merely returning the [favor to India by cornering Jamat-e-Islami][1] – India consider Jamat as enemy #1 on the eastern border – for all the help India has provided her since 1970s, and in her recent election as well. It looks like pleasing India for some immediate gains is more important than the long term interests of Bangladesh.

    [1]: http://www.rediff.com/news/2005/dec/21bspec.htmRecommend

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