Stray violence marks nationwide Bangladesh strike

Sunday, November 14, 2010

DHAKA - Stray incidents of violence marked the dawn-to-dusk nationwide strike called Sunday by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to protest the eviction of party chief and former prime minister Khaleda Zia from the government house she had lived in since 1972.

Former minister and BNP Chittagong city unit president Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury was injured during a clash with police in the port town at noon, The Daily Star reported.

Demonstrators lobbed a Molotov cocktail at a police patrol van in the national capital, said online newspaper

BNP activists brought out a procession in front of the party central office, forcing the police to lob teargas shells and charge them with batons in a bid to disperse the crowd.

A woman activist sustained injuries during the incident.

BNP Secretary General Khandakar Delwar Hossain said people have lost their confidence on the government and are spontaneously observing the strike.

A huge contingent of police was deployed around the party office to maintain law and order.

The protest was peaceful in other parts of the country.

The main opposition is protesting Saturday evening’s eviction of the party chief.

A tearful Zia, 64, told the media Saturday evening at her party office that she was “forcibly dragged out” of her house. She was not even allowed to change her clothes and had to leave “ek kapore”, meaning with the clothes she had on at that time.

The former prime minister said memories of her husband and the country’s former president, late Ziaur Rahman, were in that house and she was not even allowed to bring out her personal belongings.

Political observers said the incident would sharpen confrontation between Zia, who has been boycotting parliament, and her arch political rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Zia and her supporters disregarded an appeal by the country’s business leaders who urged her to withdraw Sunday’s strike call considering the “economic condition and suffering of homebound people before Eid-ul-Azha”, the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) reported.

In a joint statement, they said new investors were showing interest in putting in their money. “Sunday’s hartal would have a negative impact on investments.”

Speaking for the government, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said Zia’s counsel had not moved the stay petition against the high court verdict to the appellate division to gain “political mileage”.

Zia was evicted from a single-storeyed colonial house in Dhaka Cantonment. While the army, which technically owns the house, said Zia had quit voluntarily, the BNP insists she was evicted.

The government acted after the Dhaka High Court Oct 12 rejected Zia’s appeal against her eviction. The court gave a one-month quit notice that ended Friday.

Zia had appealed to the Supreme Court that fixed Nov 29 for the hearing. Her lawyers Saturday claimed to have received an “assurance” from the chief justice against eviction.

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