Bangladesh armed police officers stand guard in front of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's office during a three-day nationwide blockade in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 31 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MONIRUL ALAM

Violence continues in Bangladesh amid call for calm

Dhaka, Nov 1 (EFE).- Violence continued in Bangladesh as the opposition political parties enforced a nationwide communication blockade for the second consecutive day on Wednesday amid calls for restraints and political settlement ahead of general elections in January.

A police riot control vehicle patrols along the highway at Matuail area during a three-day nationwide blockade in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 31 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MONIRUL ALAM

Fire service official Rozina Aketer told EFE that miscreants set fire to at least six vehicles, including passenger buses, in different parts of the country on Wednesday, raising the similar number of incidents to 18 in two days.

Though no one was injured in these arson attacks, rights group Human Rights Watch said at least 11 people were killed in four days since police foiled a large opposition rally in the capital, Dhaka.

Quoting witnesses, the rights group accused the Bangladesh police of unnecessary use of force during political protests, which also left hundreds injured during the ongoing violence.

“Many Bangladeshis say they have been fearing an escalation in violence because of the government crackdown on the political opposition in an attempt to subvert participation and voting,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

The rights group noted that the Awami League-led government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrested thousands of opposition members, including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary-general of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and sealed the party offices.

BNP on Wednesday condemned the arrest of party’s standing committee member Mirza Abbas and joint secretary general Moazzem Hossain, who had been picked up by police the previous evening from a place in Dhaka.

“As part of a deep master plan to hold the upcoming parliamentary elections unilaterally and seize power again, the illegal ruling party has started arresting all the leaders and activists of the BNP across the country, including senior leaders,” BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said in a statement.

The United Nations is among the organizations to raise concerns.

“We are deeply concerned by a series of violent incidents during ongoing protests in Bangladesh,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We urge the government to observe the greatest restraint to curb political tensions at this critical time, and to take steps to ensure that human rights are fully upheld, for all Bangladeshis, before, during and after the elections,” it added.

CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), in joint statement on Wednesday, said they were “gravely concerned” about the use of disproportionate force during demonstrations led by the main opposition party in Dhaka on October 28.

BNP said that more than 1,500 of its leaders and activists have been killed and 1,200 gone missing under Prime Minister Hasina, who has governed the country since 2009.

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