Bangladesh opposition remains indoors as detention fears looms large

Dhaka, April 9 (Xinhua-ANI): As detention fear looms large, a large number of Bangladesh's main opposition leaders remain indoors to avoid risking arrest, which stoke worries among them in recent days, party spokesmen said Tuesday.

But they ruled out an acute leadership shortage that ex- Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) faces after many high profile leaders, together with thousands of others, were sent behind the bars in the recent months.

Demanding release of the party leaders and activists, Khaleda's BNP-led 18 party alliance Monday morning enforced a 36-hour countrywide strike.

BNP called the hartal after four highest policy making body members, along with four other senior leaders, including Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, were sent to jail in connection with two recent cases against them.

Joint Secretary General of BNP Salahuddin Ahmed announced the strike at a press briefing Sunday evening, saying the strike is also to demand the release of 154 main opposition leaders and activists who were detained during a raid on the party headquarters on March 11 and sent to jail on the next day.

Ahmed, who has been made the party spokesman after the jailing of another Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed last month, was also detained Monday night.

BNP leaders say the detention triggered fresh worries among the party leaders and activists.

"Detention worries grip opposition leaders and activists. Widespread panic has been created," Shamsuzzman Dudu, the new opposition party spokesman, was quoted by Xinhua, a saying on Tuesday.

He said the country "has now turned into a police state where the law enforcers obstruct peaceful opposition programs."

"Our workers were not even allowed to stay on the footpath during the hartal hours and warned that such actions would compel them to resort to tougher movement in the future."

Sabihuddin Ahmed, an adviser to the BNP chief, said the government has taken the path of repression to suppress opposition.

He said Moudud Ahmed, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Mirza Abbas, who are members of the BNP standing committee, the highest policy- making body of the opposition party, were sent to jail Sunday.

Describing how grim the situation is in Bangladesh for the opposition party men today, he further said five out of seven joint secretary generals of BNP are also now behind the bars.

"About two thousand opposition leaders and activists were sent to jail in the last few months," Ahmed said, but he claimed that the party, which was founded in 1978 and ruled the South Asian country for about 17 years (1978-1982, 1991-1996 and 2001-2006), is strong enough to cope with a crisis.

Ahmed termed the cases filed against the party's top leaders as "politically motivated".

He said the cases aimed at weakening BNP's protest to unseat the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League (AL).

Bangladesh's Deputy Law Minister Qamrul Islam, however, on Tuesday said the opposition men were arrested because of their heinous acts to impede the country's development to serve their vested interests.

Demonstrating on the streets, BNP and its allies including key Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, which also calls nationwide hartal for Thursday, has long been demanding that the government has to pass a bill in parliament for reinstating a caretaker government system for overseeing the next general elections slated for 2014.

Hasina's party, which has two-thirds majority in parliament, annulled the caretaker government system after the country's Supreme Court on May 2011 repealed the 13th amendment in the country's constitution, through which the caretaker system was institutionalized in 1996 by the then BNP government under pressure from the then main opposition AL, now the ruling party.

Since the annulment of the caretaker system, the opposition alliance observed a series of nationwide agitation to drum up support and press the government to pay heed to its key demand. (Xinhua-ANI)