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BNP holds hunger strike over arrests

BNP leader Zia calls for restoration of caretaker government

BNP holds hunger strike over arrests
Opposition activists throng to token hunger strike program in Dhaka yesterday reporter, Dhaka

May 21, 2012

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Opposition parties staged a mass hunger strike in Dhaka and other cities and towns across the country yesterday demanding the government release 33 of their leaders and find a missing politician. Former prime minister Khaleda Zia, the head of the main opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), led 20,000 activists in a six-hour symbolic fast in the capital after authorities denied bail to the opposition members, including BNP acting secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam. Following charges of arson, authorities denied the opposition members bail last Wednesday prompting a nationwide strike the following day as bomb blasts and violent clashes led to further arrests. The BNP and other opposition parties say the charges against their members are politically motivated. The 18-party opposition alliance is also calling on the government to release politician Elias Ali and to restore a non-partisan caretaker government ahead of elections scheduled for 2014. “This government will be responsible if political stability is destroyed in Bangladesh. We can sit for dialogue only if the government releases our leaders and considers restoring the caretaker government,” Zia said at yesterday’s protest, adding that the BNP would boycott the poll if a caretaker administration is not restored. She blamed the government for corruption, manipulating the judiciary and of abducting Ali, who went missing last month. The government has repeatedly denied the allegations. The opposition has demanded the ruling Awami League restore a caretaker government by June 10 or face an escalation in strikes and protests. Political tensions have escalated in Bangladesh after the ruling Awami League scrapped the caretaker government last year. Government leaders refuse to reverse the decision, saying it would be “harmful for democracy,” citing a court order that scrapped the interim administration. “If the opposition has specific proposals for holding the next election we can discuss them, but they haven’t proposed anything so far,” the Awami League’s Joint Secretary-General Mahbubul Alam Hanif told journalists in Dhaka yesterday. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee urged the ruling and opposition parties to solve their political problems through dialogue during a joint visit to Bangladesh this month. Related reports Tension after day of violence Opposition demands leader’s return

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