DHAKA: Protesters clashed with police in several towns across Bangladesh yesterday as the latest strike declared by the nation’s largest Islamic party paralyzed much of the country.
Shops and schools were closed in the capital Dhaka and major roads were largely deserted after the Jamaat-e-Islami party called for a nationwide strike to denounce the jailing on Sunday of Islamist leaders by a war crimes tribunal.
Two police officers were injured in the northern town of Ullapara after protesters threw a homemade bomb into their vehicle, police said.
“They have been hospitalized,” Ullapara police chief Habibul Islam said, adding that no one was arrested over the attack.
Violence also erupted in the eastern town of Laksam where police fired rubber bullets at about 300 gathered protesters, district police chief Tutul Chakrabarty said.
Throughout the country, inter-district bus and lorry services were also suspended in anticipation of the strike.
Jamaat called the strike to protest the jailing on Sunday of two Islamists, including a member of parliament, for three months for contempt of court, a decision likely to further fuel tensions between the secular government and religious parties.
Jamaat lawmaker Hamidur Rahman Azad and the party’s acting deputy Rafiqul Islam Khan were sentenced in absentia by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal, which is trying Islamists and others for war crimes.
More than 150 people have been killed in protests to denounce verdicts by the tribunal over atrocities committed during the nation’s bloody war for independence in 1971.
The opposition parties, including Jamaat, have called more than 30 strikes this year, protesting at what they say are “show trials” of leading Islamists and demanding elections under a caretaker government.
Bangladesh has suspended seven inspectors it accuses of negligence for renewing the licenses of garment factories in a building that collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 people, a top Labor Ministry official said yesterday.
The official, Mikail Shipar, said a ministry investigation found that the inspectors never even visited the five factories housed in the shabbily built eight-story Rana Plaza building. He said one of the factories, EtherTex, had been operating without any license from the factory inspection department since 2008, while the others were licensed through 2013.
At least 1,129 people died when the building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar collapsed April 24, a day after cracks in the building prompted authorities to issue an evacuation order.
Shipar said the ministry’s report was preliminary, and that if the accusations are proven the inspectors, all mid-level officials, will lose their jobs.
Inspectors are required to visit factories before issuing licenses, but “in the cases of these five factories, the inspectors renewed the licenses sitting at their desks,” Shipar said.
The number of factories in Bangladesh has soared in recent years to more than 240,000, while their safety is checked by only 50 government inspectors who issue operating licenses, said Obaidul Islam, a senior official at the office of the Chief Inspector of Factories. Islam said the factories include 3,500 garment factories that employ more than 3 million workers, mostly women from impoverished villages.
“There are too few inspectors for too many factories,” Islam said.
Shipar said three of the suspended inspectors were also involved in renewing the license of a garment factory where 112 people were killed in a fire in November. He gave no details about whether the inspectors are accused of wrongdoing in that license renewal.