Bangladesh authorities have issued “shoot at sight” orders on Wednesday, as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies in the 18-party coalition enforced a nationwide 36-hour strike demanding resignation of the ruling Awami League government.

“Orders have been issued to shoot at sight the protestors who will be seen setting on fire trains, buses or carrying out sabotage of any other types. Home Minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir met with senior officers of police and other law enforcement agencies ahead of the hartal,” the mass circulation Prothom Alo newspaper reported.

Though Mr. Alamgir or police chief Hassan Mahmud Khandaker were not available for comments but officials familiar with the “emergency meeting” said the law enforcement agencies were asked to take stern action against the “troublemakers.”

“We have asked the law enforcement agencies to take appropriate action considering the situation at the scenes,” State Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku told a newspaper.

The order came after suspected opposition activists torched at least nine vehicles and damaged several others on Tuesday when the country celebrated the Independence Day.

Schools and big shopping malls were closed and transport was thin on the street though opposition activists did not make visible their presence on streets in the Capital where the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion and riot patrolled. The paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh has been kept on alert.

The television channels reported over a dozen crude bomb blasts in different parts of the capital where the suspected activists also set afire a CNG-run three-wheeler on Wednesday apparently adopting the hit and run tactics when police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets.

Opposition announces hartal

“We are announcing a 36-hour hartal to wage an all-out movement against the government to realise our demands, which include the government’s resignation, restoration of the caretaker government system (for election oversight) and release of our party men,” BNP’s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told a press conference earlier.

The BNP was yet to issue any statement on the government’s “shoot at sight” decision but chairman of the statutory National Human Rights Commission Professor Mizanur Rahman criticized the order saying other options were there to prevent the saboteurs. “If it is the decision (shoot at sight) I don’t agree with that,” he told newsmen.

Re-install caretaker government

The BNP was waging a campaign over electoral system demanding restoration of a caretaker government for election oversight as the national election was due next year but ongoing trials of several stalwarts of its crucial rightwing ally Jamaat-e-Islami for 1971 war crimes has visibly shifted the focus.

After an initial dilemma, BNP eventually put its weight behind its ally calling the trial a witch-hunt. The violence over the war crimes trial claimed over 70 lives.