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People demand caretaker government in nationwide blockade
In protest against the announcement of a poll schedule, opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 17 allies announced a 48-hour nationwide blockage of road, railway and waterway from Tuesday morning.
But ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia's opposition alliance Wednesday extended the blockade by 23 hours in two phases -- first by 12 hours in the afternoon and then by 11 hours late at night -- protesting the "killing of its activists and government oppression. "
The blockade is now slated for ending at 5:00 a.m. (local time) Friday morning.
"Eighteen people including a paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh soldier were killed in the first two days of violence in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country," said a report of leading Bangla newspaper Prothom Alo Thursday.
According to the report, "blockade violence claimed nine lives" on Wednesday.
The deaths have not been officially confirmed.
Blockaders allegedly continued their attack on the railways Thursday by removing fishplates, uprooting rail lines and snapping rail communication on different routes.
Dhaka remained virtually cut off from the rest of Bangladesh since Tuesday morning as the main opposition alliance enforced nationwide blockade which triggered wide spread violence, leaving hundreds of people including dozens of policemen injured.
In the early hours of Thursday incidents of clash, arson, vandalism, chase and counter-chase, bomb explosions and detention were reported from many places in the country.
Despite the opposition's threat to boycott, the Bangladesh Election Commission announced on Monday that the country's 10th parliamentary election will be held on Jan. 5 next year.
Like previous days police used tear gas and rubber bullets against opposition protesters. At least 50 people including cops were reportedly injured as opposition men clashed with the law enforcers in Patuakhali, some 204 km south of capital Dhaka, on Thursday morning.
Hundreds of people, including dozens of policemen, have reportedly been injured in the last two days' deadly violence in opposition strongholds outside Dhaka.
In the capital city streets traffic remained relatively thin as most private vehicles were kept indoors.
Khaleda Zia has asked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to bring back a non-party caretaker system, or else the opposition won't participate in the next election because it fears an election without the non-party caretaker government will not be free and fair.
A senior BNP leader who did not like to be named told Xinhua Thursday morning that the opposition alliance will go for more tougher agitation from the beginning of next week on Sunday.
"It's a do or die situation for the main opposition party," he said.
He said, "Hasina's Fascist AL party government is killing people like birds and controls almost all the media so that they can't talk about state-sponsored repression on opposition."
The ruling party spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Political analysts have long been telling that there is no alternative but to reach consensus over the caretaker issue to avoid further serious confrontation.
Bangladesh's leading development partners including China have also called for dialogue to end political impasse.
"As a friendly neighbor of Bangladesh, China sincerely hopes that all relevant parties in Bangladesh would set store by the overall interests, solve differences through dialogue, make efforts to ensure the success of the election and work together to achieve political and social stability and economic development," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said at a regular press conference on Wednesday.
The top leaders of Bangladesh's two major political parties held phone talks last Oct. 26, the first direct conversation since January 2009 when the Hasina cabinet took oath of office.
Although both the parties are seeking dialogue to end impasse over the formation of the polls-time government, but no headway has been made so far.
Bangladesh plunged into a major political crisis in late 2006 and it returned to democracy after two years of army-backed rule following a widely acceptable parliament elections in 2008 under a caretaker government.