Opposition calls fresh 72-hour blockade across Bangladesh

Dhaka, Nov 29: Opposition parties in Bangladesh today called for a 72-hour nationwide blockade from tomorrow to push for the postponement of the general election, even as 16 of its activists, including two top leaders, were charged for a deadly arson attack on a bus.

Police filed a case against 16 BNP leaders, including the party's acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, in connection with yesterday's arson attack on the bus during a 71-hour protest in which two persons were killed and 16 others injured.

Twenty two people have died since Tuesday, when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies launched the nationwide rail, road and waterways blockade after rejecting the poll schedule. The 18-party opposition alliance wants the polls to be held under a neutral caretaker government, saying they will not be credible under the multi-party interim set-up, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"The countrywide 72-hour road, rail and waterways blockade will start from 6:00 am tomorrow and last until Monday 6 am," BNP's joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told a hurriedly called press conference.

He said the fresh blockade was called, demanding cancellation of the election schedule setting January 5, 2014 for voting and mount pressures on government to release their detained leaders and activists. The opposition alliance, with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami being a major partner, wrapped up its 71-hour blockade at 5 am today. The opposition denied allegations of setting afire the bus, attributing the act to government supporters. State minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku called the arsonists "animals in human disguise".

Meanwhile, BNP chief Khaleda Zia in a statement demanded immediate withdrawal of the cases against party leaders. "I strongly condemn and protest suing the 18-party combine leaders for instigation," Khaleda said.

The latest standoff between Hasina's Awami League and the BNP began after the Election Commission announced the poll schedule on Monday. According to the schedule, December 2 is the last date for submitting nomination papers, meaning the opposition must decide its stance on the polls and nominate candidates in the next three days. 


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