Dhaka: after days of clashes, opposition takes to the streets against government
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accused of rigging the last elections. In recent days, police have weighed in by storming party headquarters and arresting hundreds of protesters. At least seven activists have been killed by security forces since September.
Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Tens of thousands of supporters of Bangladesh's main opposition party today took to the streets of Dhaka, the capital, to protest against the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, after clashes between activists and security forces have been ongoing for days.
"Sheikh Hasina is a vote thief," members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (Bnp), a right-wing faction, shouted from the Golapbagh sports field, calling for the premier's resignation. The opposition, which accuses the government of rigging the 2018 elections, is calling for the establishment of a neutral government before the vote to renew parliament scheduled for late next year.
Yesterday, two party leaders were arrested on charges of inciting violence: according to a statement by Bnp spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general, and Mirza Abbas, a former minister and member of the party's top decision-making body, were taken from their homes around 3 a.m. (local time).
But back on Dec. 6, security forces had stormed the party's headquarters, leaving at least one person dead and dozens injured. Clashes continued the next day: fearing a popular uprising, the government deployed SWAT, a police force trained by the United States to fight terrorism, which used rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrators, and arrested several members gathered in front of the party headquarters.
According to Bnp, since Nov. 30, the government has arrested about 2,000 activists in an attempt to prevent the anti-government demonstration scheduled for today. Since September, at least seven Bnp activists have been killed by police while participating in peaceful demonstrations to protest the caravan and the government's actions in general.
Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, of the Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Center, believes the country's major institutions such as the Election Commission, judiciary, Anti-Corruption Commission, police, and bureaucracy helped Hasina rig the elections and justify her actions, "Bangladeshi citizens do not believe that credible and fair elections can be held in Bangladesh without Sheikh Hasina being removed from power as she pursues a campaign in pursuit of perpetual 'absolute power.'"