News / Asia

Violence Mars Daylong Nationwide Strike in Bangladesh

Bangladesh's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party activists shout slogans as they march during a strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 14 Nov 2010
Bangladesh's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party activists shout slogans as they march during a strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 14 Nov 2010

Bangladesh has witnessed widespread street protests during a nationwide strike called by the opposition to protest the eviction of their leader from her home in a military compound. Dozens of activists have been injured.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of protesters who threw stones and clashed with police as they marched through the capital, Dhaka, and enforced a daylong strike on Sunday - a working day in Bangladesh. Schools and businesses shut down in most cities. Sporadic violence was also reported from other towns.

It was the second day of violence in the country. Activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party took to the streets on Saturday after their leader, Khaleda Zia, was evicted from her residence in a military compound where she has stayed for more than 30 years.

Officials say she was evicted after a court deadline to vacate the house expired. They say she left the house voluntarily.

But Khaleda Zia, who has twice been prime minister of the country, says security forces broke open the front door and dragged out of her home. She had appealed the order to vacate the home in a higher court.

An independent political analyst in Dhaka, Ataus Samad, says the opposition had long warned that any move to evict her would be met with protests. But he says the manner in which she was evicted has deepened anger.

"Lots of people have responded to the strike call spontaneously to protest the humiliation of a former Prime Minister and who happens to be a woman," he said.

Ms. Zia was allotted the home in 1981 after her husband, former President Ziaur Rahman, was killed in a military coup. The government, led by her long-time rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, asked her to leave the house last year, saying she was using it to conduct politics in violation of the conditions of its allotment.

Many fear that the issue will again lead to a spell of confrontation between the government and the opposition. Bangladesh's politics has long been characterized by bitter standoffs between the leaders of the country's two main parties - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.

Police say at least three people were also killed in Western Bangladesh in a bomb explosion in the house of a ruling party member of parliament. Police are uncertain whether the explosion was a suicide attack targeting the lawmaker or accidental.

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