DHAKA // Police and backers of Bangladesh’s ruling party clashed on Sunday with opposition supporters, leaving at least five people dead and scores injured in different parts of the country as opposition parties tried to enforce a three-day nationwide general strike.
The strike, which began is to continue until Tuesday night, is aimed at forcing the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, to quit and form a caretaker government made up of people from outside political parties to oversee a general election due by early next year.
An activist from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was killed in the south-western district of Faridpur after security officials opened fire on stone-throwing protesters, local police official said, adding that at least six people were injured.
A backer of the ruling Awami League party was hacked to death, allegedly by opposition activists, in Jessore, 135 kilometres west of Dhaka, police said.
In the southern district of Pirojpur, another ruling party supporter was hacked to death by activists from the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, a police official said.
Violence in the northern district of Pabna left a Jamaat-e-Islami member dead, the Bengali-language Prothom Alo daily reported. The fifth death occurred when two factions of the BNP clashed after they brought out separate processions in support of the strike in the northern district of Bogra, Channel 24 TV station reported.
A system of caretaker governments to oversee elections has been used for 15 years, but the government scrapped it after the supreme court ruled that it contradicted the constitution.
The opposition, led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, has demanded that the system be restored and has threatened to boycott the election. The government rejects the demand, and earlier this month proposed forming an all-party government instead.
Bangladesh, a parliamentary democracy, has been alternately ruled by Ms Hasina and Ms Zia since 1991. But the issue of peaceful transfers of power has remained a major challenge.
* Associated Press