Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (L) welcomes Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina (R), at the Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy, 25 July 2023. EFE-EPA/FABIO FRUSTACI

Thousands gather in Bangladesh to demand PM Hasina’s resignation

Dhaka, July 28 (EFE).- Thousands of supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) gathered in Dhaka for a grand rally on Friday as part of its final push to force the government to step down before the next general election.

Other opposition parties organized similar demonstrations while the ruling Awami League announced a parallel “peace rally,” raising political tension.

The BNP alleged that police conducted raids in Dhaka to foil the rally.

“More than 500 of our leaders and activists have been arrested in the past two days despite the party’s repeated calls for peaceful protests,” BNP leader Mirza Abbas told reporters on Thursday.

Police said more than 350 people were arrested in Dhaka between Wednesday and Friday.

“Most of these people are wanted for many crimes. We are not arresting innocent people,” Dhaka police spokesperson Faruk Hossain told EFE.

“We conduct these drives to maintain people’s security,” he said, adding Shia Muslims planned to hold a mourning procession on Saturday. “We are working so that no one does subversive activities in the procession or at these political rallies.”

Local media reported that police had set up checkpoints at different entry points to Dhaka.

The BNP’s official Facebook page showed live reports of thousands of party activists defying police restrictions and arrests to gather in front of its headquarters Thursday night.

The Bangladesh opposition organized several big rallies in recent months calling for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s resignation and the formation of a caretaker government before the next general election due later this year or early 2024.

At least one person was killed and scores injured as opposition party protests turned violent on Tuesday.

The BNP said 18 leaders and activists have died, and over 2,000 have been injured in clashes with police and ruling Awami League supporters since August last year.

The BNP has been holding protests against rising commodity prices, seeking unconditional release of party chief Khaleda Zia, and setting up an interim government for the polls.

Zia, sentenced to 10 years on a corruption charge, is banned from engaging in political activities or leaving the country after her conditional release in March 2020.

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