BNP says talks can take place only after October 29, when the shutdown ends

The first day of the three-day countrywide hartal called by opposition parties saw violence that left at least five people dead, scores badly injured and destruction of property across Bangladesh on Sunday.

Rejecting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s request for a dialogue, the Khaleda Zia-led opposition-party alliance had called the 60-hour hartal from six a.m. on Sunday demanding the formation of an all-party poll-time government.

Civil society leaders have urged Ms. Zia to accept the talks offer and call off the shutdown. However, BNP general secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said on Sunday that the talks could take place only after October 29 when the shutdown ends.

The deaths were reported from the districts of Faridpur, Jessore, Pabna, Pirojpur and Bogra, where the opposition BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami activists clashed with police, and in some places with ruling Awami League supporters. They also torched two trains, including a passenger train.

In the daylong violence, which occurred mostly in opposition strongholds outside Dhaka, an estimated 200 people, including dozens of policemen, were injured.

Several Awami League offices were set on fire. The opposition activists, who on Saturday attacked journalists and crew of several TV channels, also attacked journalists covering the day’s events.

At least 70 people were injured when activists set fire to compartments of a passenger train in northern Joypurhat. They also set fire to a good train.

The ruling Awami League said on Sunday that Ms. Zia had “betrayed the nation” by going ahead with the hartal despite Ms. Hasina’s telephone call inviting her for talks on Saturday.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, a close aide of the Prime Minister, said the “door is still open” for holding discussion about the polls-time government. “We are still optimistic about reaching a solution through dialogue,” she said at a press conference on Sunday.