Two killed in petrol bomb attack on truck; voting centres torched

Even as Bangladesh’s opposition combine intensified its violent resistance to the Jan. 5 elections, the authorities have completed all preparations for voting on Sunday.

Accusing the government of “confining” its leader Khaleda Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has called a nationwide 48-hour strike on the day of polling in addition to the indefinite blockade to foil the election.

On the third day of the indefinite blockade on Friday, at least two persons were killed and three injured when protesters hurled petrol bombs on a truck in northern Dinajpur.

Police recovered the charred body of the driver and a trader from inside the damaged vehicle.

Opposition activists allegedly set fire to an Awami League office in Comilla and torched a truck in Chandpur. In Dhaka, they attacked a passenger bus with petrol bombs injuring at least three passengers including a woman. All three sustained severe burn injuries.

The BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami-led alliance has been enforcing a rail, road and river blockade from Jan. 1 demanding cancellation of what it termed “one-sided polls.”

In northern Chapainawabgonj, a truck driver and his two helpers sustained critical burn injuries as protesters hurled a petrol bomb on the goods-laden vehicle.

Opposition activists also set fire to five polling centres in four schools and a madrasa in the Feni district early on Thursday.

The institutions include a Girls High School and a kindergarten.

Not a good sign: U.S.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has said it is yet to decide whether it would recognise the Jan. 5 elections.

The State Department’s deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said the failure of the parties to reach a consensus clearly was “not a good sign.”

“As I’ve been clear, they haven’t taken steps to hold free, fair, and credible elections, so clearly that’s not a good sign,” she said at a press briefing in Washington on Thursday, when asked whether the U.S. would recognise the elections in which the major Opposition parties stayed away.

India backs democracy

Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, Pankaj Saran, said his country’s relationship with the present Awami League had a “historical context” but they have always dealt “with the government of the day.”

The envoy said the Awami League was in the forefront of Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971 when India and Bangladesh worked closely.

“And at that time, as it happened, it was the party of the day and in that capacity various organs of the Indian state and the people of India were actually exposed to the Awami League,” a leading online newspaper quoted Mr. Saran as saying in the ‘Maasranga TV’ interview.

Replying to a question, the envoy also said, “whichever government is thrown up by the people and is elected by the people, India will be most happy to deal with it.”

The envoy said India wished to see the consolidation of the democratic process and the democratic institutions in Bangladesh. New Delhi, he said, also wished to see that the aspirations of the people of Bangladesh could be realised in a free, fair and impartial election which will have wide acceptability.

However, he added, that the two countries share such a long border that “neither India nor Bangladesh can remain unaffected or be indifferent to what happens in each other’s country.”