Bangladesh’s opposition party BNP and its allies have extended their two-day nationwide strike by 23 hours to push for the postponement of the elections, even as 18 people have died in violence in the past three days.
“It will now be a 71-hour blockade to be ended at 5 am on Friday,” the BNP’s joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told reporters late on Wednesday night.
Media reports quoting unidentified opposition sources said the BNP-led 18-party alliance with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami being a major partner was likely to come up with fresh protests on Sunday after the Friday-Saturday weekend.
The third consecutive day of the blockade on Thursday began with reports that opposition activists hurled petrol bombs on a police Armoured Personnel Carrier, injuring 10 people.
Police retaliated with rubber bullets.
The TV channels reported that sabotage on tracks led to derailment of a passenger train near central Comilla past midnight, injuring several passengers, while the blockaders uprooted 71 feet of railway tracks in north-western Bogra disrupting train movements in the region.
Clashes between the protesters and police in south-western Patuakhali left 50 people injured while sporadic incidents of violence were also reported from other parts of the country where the opposition activists torched vehicles, uprooted electric polls and railway tracks.
The extended blockade announcement came largely frustrating expectations of settlement of opposition disputes with ruling Awami League-led alliance over interim government while the election commission set January 5, 2014 for the 10th general elections, a plan rejected by the opposition.
Chief election commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, however, told reporters on Tuesday that the poll plans could be revised if the political parties reached an understanding.
According to the schedule, December 2 is the last date for submission of nomination papers, meaning the opposition must decide its stance on the polls and nominate candidates within a week.
But legal experts said the major parties must reach a consensus immediately as the independent statutory body was obligated to stage the polls by January 24, 2014 under a constitution deadline giving the commission scopes for deferring the election date by few days only.
Meanwhile, UN officials in Dhaka said secretary general Ban Ki-moon would send a “political mission” to Dhaka on December 6 in an effort to bridge the gaps between the two parties after Western nations and neighbouring countries like India and China engaged their efforts for an amicable settlement of the deadlock.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday alleged that BNP was trying to evade the upcoming general elections fearing its defeat and added that that main opposition party’s decision was also influenced by Jamaat, the party which faces a ban under a High Court verdict.