Haroon Habib

DHAKA: Dhaka was tense as the main Opposition alliance's "Dhaka Siege" on Sunday was marked by violent clashes that injured nearly 500 demonstrators, including police and journalists.

The 14-party Opposition combine, led by the Awami League (AL), called the "Dhaka siege" to press home their demands to bring urgent reforms in the caretaker government system and Election Commission to ensure the next general elections were free, fair and credible.

They have been alleging the "complete politicisation" of the EC by the Khaleda Zia Government. Hours before the planned "Dhaka siege," a special bench of the High Court imposed a ban on the Opposition's programme. But it went ahead with their plan, defying the court injunction. The Supreme Court Bar Association has protested against the action, describing the abrupt ban on a democratic programme as "unfortunate."

The Supreme Court being on summer vacation, a special bench was constituted by the Chief Justice upon a writ petition filed by a lawyer challenging the programme. In protest against the indiscriminate police actions, the Opposition combine called a 36-hour non-stop countrywide hartal beginning June 13, and threatened further nationwide action if demands to reform the caretaker government system and the EC were not met.

Reports said agitating Opposition activists snapped rail communication, uprooting tracks and burning trains in many places across the country.

Police who clubbed the demonstrators mercilessly, also beat up journalists in Dhaka and elsewhere. Kanchpur Bridge, a vital road link between Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet, appeared to be the worst scene of violence.

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