Police opens fire on opposition protests across the country.

The Bangladeshi opposition coalition has called a 60-hour hartal across the country from six a.m. Sunday, handing the government a two-day ultimatum to initiate dialogue on a neutral poll-time government. According to reports, five people were killed in as police opened fire on opposition protests across the country.

Leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party Khaleda Zia announced the hartal move at a massive rally in Dhaka on Friday. She repeatedly termed the Sheikh Hasina government “illegal” alleging that its tenure had expired on Thursday based a legal provision that requires a neutral caretaker government to be set up three months before elections slated for January 24, 2014.

But the ruling Awami League abolished the provision in 2011, handing the job of overseeing polls to a reformed Election Commission. The ruling alliance, meanwhile, decided to continue the current session of Parliament till November 7.

“There will be no election in Bangladesh with [Prime Minister Sheikh] Hasina in power,” said Ms. Khaleda Zia leader who said her proposal of a neutral caretaker government during the upcoming general elections must be accepted, even by amending the Constitution. “If the government comes up with positive proposals for a dialogue, we will continue the negotiations,” she said adding “both movement and negotiations can continue simultaneously.”

On war crimes

Hundreds of activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir participated in Ms. Khaleda Zia’s rally, calling for the release of their leaders who have been convicted or are undergoing trial for war crimes.

However, in her speech Ms. Khaleda Zia, for the first time, supported the trials of war criminals “on principle” even as she alleged that the war crimes tribunals were selectively picking Jamaat and BNP leaders.

Violence

AP adds:

Two protesters were killed and several injured by bullets in the southern resort district of Cox’s Bazaar when border guards opened fire at several thousand BNP supporters. Two more were killed by bullets in the central district of Chandpur and another in the northern town of Jaldhaka.

Fearing clashes, police banned all political rallies and street protests in major cities. But on Thursday night they decided to allow the BNP to hold the Friday rallies after the party vowed to defy the ban.