Bangladesh opposition announces 3-day shutdown

DHAKA - The Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its alliance announced Friday that they will impose another 72-hour nationwide shutdown starting next Sunday.

The opposition party’s joint secretary general, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed, announced the shutdown in a statement Friday.

The shutdown will start the day before the country’s 1.5 million students start their secondary school exams.

The party leader announced the shutdown immediately after rejecting Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid's request to end the ongoing blockade in the interest of the students taking the exams.

The rolling transport blockade across the country, enforced by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is in its fourth week and marred by violence, arson and party supporters’ clashes with law enforcement agencies.

According to Bangladeshi daily Prothom Alo on Thursday, 41 people have been killed over 24 days.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked senior police officials Wednesday to take extreme measure against the protesters to stop violence, adding that she would take responsibility for the consequences.

In addition to the blockade, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party imposed a shutdown in capital Dhaka, as well as certain other districts. Its political ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, shut down the northern district of Rajshahi on Thursday.

The opposition is holding random shutdowns in different districts on different days. This marks a breakaway from the traditional tactic of nationwide shutdowns and has made the political situation more unpredictable.

Bangladesh’s economy has been hit hard, as both the agricultural and industrial sectors are crippled by their inability to transport goods and materials to their respective destinations. 

The situation is also troubling the country’s apparel industry. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association held a human chain, along with other apparel industry associations, Wednesday in the Dhaka's Kawran Bazar, to protest the transport blockade.

The association’s president, Atiqul Islam, urged both the ruling Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and her opposition counterpart, Khaleda Zia, to end the crisis to save the economy.

"This (rolling blockade) is unbearable for us," he told reporters.

He also said the situation is destroying country’s image abroad.

Several business associations submitted memorandums Wednesday to both party leaders’ offices, requesting them to take immediate steps to end the paralysis.

Prominent Bangladeshi political scientist Professor Emajuddin Ahamed said at a discussion forum Wednesday that an inclusive, credible, free and fair election is the only solution to this crisis. The government should arrange such an inclusive election, he said.

Another political analyst, Ashraf Kaiser, said: "All politicians should take moral responsibility for all the violence in the name of politics."

The political unrest began around the Jan. 5 anniversary of the controversial 2014 elections, which the Bangladesh Nationalist Party opposed and boycotted.

The party began its blockade campaign after hundreds of police officers were stationed outside the office of Khaleda Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader.

The police, according to Zia, prevented her from attending planned protests.

Despite the police cordon being lifted on Jan. 19, Zia announced the transport blockade would continue indefinitely.

The UN and foreign diplomats have issued numerous statements and held meetings with the party leaders urging them to swiftly end the political crisis.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency