Bangladesh: Opposition Leaders Conceal Themselves After Violent Weekend Protests in Bangladesh

Bangladesh experienced mass demonstrations and strikes, resulting in at least seven deaths and hundreds of opposition activists in jail. This is a sign of increased political violence ahead of upcoming polls. Senior leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have gone into hiding and been charged in connection with a police constable’s death during protests. The BNP staged a strike on Sunday, following counter-street protests by opposition parties and the ruling Awami League. BNP officials have said party leaders are hiding from police as authorities search their homes. Analyst Mahbub Ullah warns that the government’s autocratic approach could have dire consequences for the country’s democracy and economy.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activists have staged anti-government protests demanding Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina and her Awami League government to resign for a neutral caretaker administration to oversee a general election in January. Hasina has refused to comply with BNP’s calls and has pushed back on calls from the U.S. and other Western countries to ensure a free and fair election. After the violence, dozens of BNP leaders face charges resulting from the death of a police officer. At least 164 BNP leaders, including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, have been accused of murdering the police officer.
BNP leaders, with support from Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, are facing charges of mass arrests, potentially leading to the death penalty. They plan a three-day blockade to protest, raising concerns about minor parties’ participation in the upcoming election due to their support for the BNP’s strike.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has accused police of raiding the homes of several members of its standing committee, including Mirza Abbas, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo, and Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal. Police in Dhaka have arrested over 1,800 people in the last 10 days, with nearly all being BNP members. The first two deaths were announced on Saturday, and at least seven people have been killed in the political clashes from Saturday to Monday. A journalist covering the protest and an Awami League activist were also reported dead. A transportation worker was burned to death while sleeping in a bus, and a local BNP leader, Zakir Hossain, was found dead outside his home in Dhaka’s Cumilla district the next day. The BNP central office in Dhaka was declared a crime scene after the violence. The Awami League’s general secretary, Obaidul Quader, has directed ruling party followers to be vigilant and assist police, stating that the opposition could block government projects in the coming days.

The Awami League in Bangladesh has faced violence linked to the BNP protest, with leaders and workers leaving the party in frustration. On Monday, thousands of supporters rallied in Dhaka to denounce the violence. The diplomatic missions of the United States, the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, South Korea, and Norway in Bangladesh issued a joint statement calling on all stakeholders to exercise restraint, eschew violence, and work together to create conditions for free, fair, participatory, and peaceful elections.

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