Supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) attend a mass rally in front of their Nayapaltan office in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 12 July 2023. EFE/EPA/MONIRUL ALAM

Opposition holds protests demanding resignation of Bangladesh PM

Dhaka, Jul 12 (EFE).- Thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday, calling for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s resignation and the formation of a caretaker government before the next general election.

Supporters of the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) ruling party carry banners as they gather during a peace rally in front of the South gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 12 July 2023. EFE/EPA/MONIRUL ALAM

Fakhrul, the top Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader in the absence of convicted chief Khaleda Zia and her exiled son Tarique Rahman, led the sit-in protest in front of the party office in Dhaka.

Supporters of the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) ruling party gather during a peace rally near the South gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 12 July 2023. EFE/EPA/MONIRUL ALAM

“We have just one demand, no other demand, which is the resignation of this voting rights snatcher, authoritarian, fascist, illegal government,” Fakhrul said, referring to Hasina and her government.

“You still have time to resign. Otherwise, as the history of Bangladesh suggests, you will not get a chance to flee,” he said, addressing the authorities.

Several other opposition parties raised similar demands in separate demonstrations across the capital.

Ruling Awami League held some counter demonstrations in Dhaka in support of the Hasina government.

Police spokesperson Faruk Hossain said there was no untoward incident despite the rally and counter-rally.

“So far everything appears fine,” Hossain told EFE.

BNP leaders, however, alleged that police intercepted their activists on their way to rallies and checked their phones, while local media reported that the internet had been slowed down during the opposition rally.

The political showdown came at a time when two foreign delegations, from the European Union and the United States, respectively, were in Bangladesh to hold talks with different stakeholders over various issues, including a free and fair general election, democracy, and human rights.

The Asian country is scheduled to hold general elections later this year or in early 2024.

Wednesday’s rally is the biggest opposition rally since December when the BNP defied police obstacles, attacks, and arrests to hold a public rally in the capital.

Police had arrested senior BNP leaders, including Fakhrul, and raided the party office in Dhaka before the December rally.

The BNP has been holding protests since August against rising commodity prices and demanding the unconditional release of Zia and the formation of an interim government for polls.

Zia, sentenced to ten years on a corruption charge, is banned from engaging in political activities or leaving the country after her conditional release in March 2020.

BNP spokesperson Shahiduddin Chowdhury Annie said 17 leaders and activists have died and 1,790 have been injured in clashes with police and supporters of the ruling Awami League since Aug. 22.

The clashes come at a moment of an apparent escalation of political tensions ahead of the next general elections due between December 2023 and January 2024.

The Awami League and the BNP have ruled Bangladesh since 1991, except for a brief quasi-military rule in 2007-08. EFE