Dhaka, Oct 28 (PTI) Bangladesh on Saturday deployed paramilitary border guards to ensure security as activists of the main opposition party demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina clashed with police here while the ruling Awami League also held a simultaneous peace rally.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia organised a grand rally here to press home their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Hasina to allow free and fair elections under a non-party interim government.
According to witnesses and private TV channels, BNP activists set a police booth on fire at Kakrail, pelted stones at the chief justice’s residence and damaged several vehicles.
Law enforcement personnel responded with tear gas canisters and batons, while TV footage showed paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel appearing at the scene along with the police to control the protesters.
“BNP leaders and activists attacked the government installations and property, legal actions will be taken,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s detective branch chief Harunur Rashid told reporters.
He said several policemen were wounded in the attack and were admitted to the central police hospital, “which too came under their attack”.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party called a nationwide general strike on Sunday, the first in several years to protest against police action to foil their planned rally and assault their activists.
Prime Minister Hasina’s ruling Awami League party also staged a “peace rally” mobilising thousands of supporters at the South Gate of Baitul Mokarram Nation Mosque, when BNP activists rallied around the party's Naya Paltan central office, both the spots being in downtown Dhaka.
Police in riot gear with water cannons created buffer zones at the Purana Paltan area to prevent clashes among rival activists, who were armed with bamboo sticks and stones.
Both parties received police permission late last night to stage their planned rallies at spots of their choice, but a number of conditions were imposed.
Defying the conditions, both sides started their rallies, crippling traffic movements in most parts of the capital as many shop owners and shopping complexes shuttered their businesses, fearing violence.
BNP’s extreme right-wing ally Jamaat-e-Islami earlier announced a separate rally, defying a police ban. Their supporters tried to rally at the designated spot called Shapla Chattar, in front of the Bangladesh Bank near the BNP meeting spot but were dispersed by police using batons.
The development came amid heightened tensions over the scheduled early January 2024 general elections in Bangladesh, where Hasina, daughter of the country's founding father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has been in power for 15 years.
The opposition party has been mounting protests to press their demands for months, although their ailing leader, Khaleda Zia, a two-time premier, is under house arrest after a conviction on corruption charges.
The BNP says it is attempting a final push to remove Hasina as the election commission prepares to announce the country’s 12th national election. PTI AR GRS AKJ GRS GRS