Opposition strike shuts down Bangladesh

February 16, 2006 - 0:0
DHAKA (Reuters) -- Schools were shut in Bangladesh on Wednesday and transport services paralyzed as an anti-government strike called by the opposition took hold in most parts of the country, witnesses said.

Hundreds of police stood guard in the capital Dhaka to prevent unrest after dozens of people were injured in clashes on Tuesday in a northern town between rival groups during an opposition march to whip up support for the shutdown.

A 14-party alliance led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called the strike to build pressure on the government to resign for what the opposition says is its failure to crack down on radical groups and control soaring prices.

"Time is up for this government, they should allow free and fair election under an independent election commission," Begum Matia Chowdhury, a leader of the main opposition Awami League said as she led a march to enforce the strike in the capital.

There were no reports of violence from anywhere in the country, a police officer said.

The strike is the latest in a long-running campaign by Hasina to topple Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, whose Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) enjoys a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Hasina's Awami League returned to Parliament at the weekend after a year-long boycott, but party workers said they planned to carry on the fight against the government inside the chamber and on the streets.

Khaleda has said she will serve out her full five-year term and hold elections as scheduled in January 2007.