Bangladesh eases back to normal as blockade ends
Dhaka, Dec 5: Businesses reopened and traffic returned to the streets today after a Bangladesh political alliance called off a countrywide blockade when authorities agreed to review the schedule for elections due in January.
''We have decided to let transport roll again to help people resume normal lives because the government at last seems to willing to accept our demands,'' said Sheikh Hasina, head of the Awami League which is leading the multi-party alliance.
The election is now set for January 21, with the last day of filing nominations on December 10 and the deadline for withdrawing from the race on December 19.
''We will review the government's actions to see if they are going in the right direction. If not, we will announce a fresh package of protests,'' Hasina said.
Yesterday, the interim government headed by President Iajuddin Ahmed also asked the election commission to update voters lists to drop ''ghost'' voters and to include those left out.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Begum Khaleda Zia, who ended her five-year tenure as prime minister late in October and handed power to the interim authority, said it would not accept a change in the voting date.
''Changing the polling date would amount to violation of the constitution,'' BNP secretary-general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said.
Today, thousands of alliance activists gathered around the election commission headquarters in the capital, as Hasina vowed to keep up pressure on authorites.
Riot police prevented the protesters from getting too close to the commission building, one witness said. The protests so far have been peaceful.
Khaleda and Hasina have ruled impoverished Bangladesh by turn for the last 15 years since forcing military ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad from power in December 1990.
But animosity between the two women has grown so much that they have not spoken to each other for the last 10 years.
At least 44 people have been killed and hundreds injured in five weeks of political unrest, including 14 days of transport shutdown, police said.