Bangladesh main opposition party BNP and its right wing allies have extended a 72-hour nationwide strike for two more days demanding the postponement of polls,even as the deadline to file nomination papers ends on Monday.
“The blockade will now continue till 5:00 p.m. Thursday,” BNP spokesperson and joint secretary general Salahuddin Ahmed said in messages sent to media houses.
The opposition protest,which was scheduled to end on Tuesday,would virtually paralyse the country straight for the second week,even as death toll in the last two-week’s of political violence rose to 28.
The extension came as the deadline to file nomination papers for the upcoming January 5 elections expires today.
BNP had said it would not nominate candidates until settlement of the dispute over the election time government.
The ruling Awami League and BNP are at loggerheads over the system for conducting the polls. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has formed a multi-party interim set-up while the BNP wants elections under a non-party interim government.
The opposition led by BNP is demanding that the polls should be shelved until the dispute is settled.
The crisis prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to warn that Bangladeshi politicians might face prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
“In other situations,we have seen cases of political or election related violence where the perpetrators of such acts – including political leadership – have faced prosecution,” Pillay said on Sunday.
“In the past week,we have seen acts as extreme as protestors throwing molotov cocktails onto public buses without allowing the occupants to escape,leaving women and children with horrific burns,” she said,as one more person died overnight taking the toll to 28 since last week.
Her comments came ahead of a high-level UN political mission’s visit to Dhaka this week for talks with AL and BNP.
UN secretary general Ban-Ki-moon took new initiatives last week to end the political deadlock sending letters afresh to Prime Minister Hasina and her arch-rival BNP chief Khaleda Zia as the political deadlock resulted in widespread violence.
BNP’s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir last night asked the Election Commission to shelve the polls plan until settlement of their dispute with the AL.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed said yesterday “anything is possible” if the political parties reach a consensus but added that otherwise the commission would go ahead with the polls plan.
Meanwhile,the violence across Bangladesh continued amid blockade,with suspected activists setting buses and other vehicles on fire and damaging railway tracks.
Railway officials said that 50 passengers were injured when a train derailed in northwestern Rajshahi yesterday.
“We have recorded 88 incidents of sabotages like setting afire and derailment of trains because of uprooted tracks,” a railway spokesman told media.
Several vehicles were set on fire today in the capital after the suspected opposition activists torched another passenger bus overnight. In one incident,a crude bomb blew parts of the head of pedestrian in Dhaka.
Some 1,000 bus drivers and transport workers,meanwhile,marched towards Zia’s residence at up market Gulshan area chanting slogans against sudden attacks by opposition activists on them. They were stopped by police near the house.
Hasina had yesterday warned that her government will take tough actions against violence mongers.
“What it can be called other than genocide the way people are being killed in arson,” she told newsmen emerging from the burn unit of the sate-run Dhaka Medical Hospital where a number of violence victims were being treated.
Hasina accused Zia of “playing with lives of the ordinary people”,saying “it cannot be acceptable that she (Zia) would issue orders to burn people to death,sitting in the (comfortable air-conditioned) room.”
“We will take tough actions… we will do whatever required to expose them to justice,” she said,as police sued 17 senior BNP leaders for instigating arsons and arrested the party’s joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
Most of the senior opposition leaders went underground and Rizvi’s successor as party spokesman Ahmed maintains links with media through video messages or phones.
The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance is demanding installation of a “non-party” government to oversee elections,
a demand rejected by prime minister Hasina.
According to an estimate by a local newspaper,political violence since January this year killed over 350 people.