Imran Rahman & Agencies
Tuesday 31 August 2004
Last Update 31 August 2004 12:00 am
DHAKA, 31 August 2004 — The fourth general strike in a week called by the opposition brought Bangladesh to a standstill yesterday. Shops, schools, offices and businesses across the country were shut and Dhaka’s usually crowded streets were almost bare, except for a few cycle rickshaws and police vehicles.
Security was tightened for the shutdown called by the Awami League, which coincided with demonstrations by the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to deplore the Aug. 21 attack on an opposition rally.
The streets of the capital Dhaka were largely deserted, with only rickshaws and a few three-wheel taxis and buses roaming the city. Most educational institutions and businesses remained closed. Much of Bangladesh was similarly shut down by Awami League strikes last Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Thousands took to the streets yesterday as the BNP and its allies launched their procession but police said no trouble was immediately reported. Awami League officials said about five of their supporters were arrested in Dhaka and several injured when police broke up their gatherings. Police did not report any serious clashes.
Yesterday’s shutdown was called by the Awami League’s women’s wing in protest against the assassination attempt on party leader Hasina Wajed, which killed 20 people including the wing’s leader Ivy Rahman.
Condition of some of the Awami League leaders, who suffered shrapnel wounds in the grenade attacks worsened while 18 others were flown to Calcutta and Delhi yesterday for better treatment.
AL and its front organization leaders who left Dhaka early yesterday are Obaidul Kader, Bahauddin Nasim, Enamul Haque Shamim, Ishak Ali Khan Panna, Ajay Kar Khokan, Nazrul Islam Babu, Shahabuddin Farazi, Bahar Mia, Nasima Ferdousi, Asma Zerin Jhuma, Najimuddin Talukdar, Shahida Tareq Dipti, Rashida Akhter Ruma, Doulatunnahar, Momtaz Hossain and Ilias Mollah. They will receive treatment either in Calcutta or Delhi.
Around 8,000 police and paramilitary troops were patrolling the city, the same as during Saturday’s strike, Dhaka Additional Police Commissioner Mizanur Rahman told AFP.
“We have made adequate arrangements to avoid any mishap because of the ruling party demonstration and opposition’s strike,” he said. The strike also shut down many other cities and towns across the country, according to police.
In Bangladesh’s second city Chittagong, police said the situation was peaceful. They deployed around 3,000 police and paramilitaries, more than during Saturday’s strike. Harbor officials said deliveries to the port had been halted but work was otherwise normal. It is the 18th stoppage since February called by the Awami League as part of its intensified campaign to oust the government, a four-party coalition led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s BNP.