Bangladesh General Election: Primary Schools, Polling Booths Set On Fire Amid Opposition BNP's 48-Hour Strike

The strike in Bangladesh is taking place as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party's ( BNP) demand for the formation of an interim non-party neutral government to hold the general election was rejected by the Sheikh Hasina-led government.

Protest erupts in Bangladesh ahead of general elections

Right ahead of the general elections scheduled on January 7, fresh round of violence erupted in Bangladesh as unidentified arsonists have reportedly set fire to at least five primary schools, including four polling booths. It has been reported that police are investigating the fires in Gazipur, on the outskirts of capital Dhaka.

"We have intensified patrolling and remain on high alert to thwart any untoward incident," said Gazipur police chief Kazi Shafiqul Alam.

Today, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main Opposition party, initiated a general strike demanding the resignation of the "illegal government" of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and to protest against the January 7 general election, which it is boycotting.

The strike is called by the former prime minister Khalida Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which is reportedly boycotting the January 7 general election. The strike is taking place as the demand for the formation of an interim non-party neutral government to hold the election was rejected by the government headed by Prime Minister Hasina, who is heading the ruling Awami League.

According to the Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Nitai Roy Chowdhury, "Nearly 62 opposition parties, including Bangladesh Communist Party, the Left parties and some Islamic parties, have boycotted the elections."

BNP's call for a strike came a day after authorities deployed army troops across the country to assist the civic administration in maintaining order and peace during the BNP-boycotted elections. Since October 29, the BNP has been holding intermittent nationwide strikes and transport blockades.

In the last three months, at least 16 people died and thousands were injured during the strikes while police arrested thousands of opposition activists, according to Human Rights Watch.

BNP calls for strike

According to BNP Joint Senior Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, "The 48-hour hartal will be observed from 6 am on January 6, to 6 am on January 8,” Rizvi said in a virtual press conference as last-minute preparations were underway for the 12th general elections.

The strike calls for the “resignation of the illegal government, establishment of a non-party neutral government and release of all party leaders and activists from prison,” he further added.

The Joint Secretary also clearly mentioned at a previous virtual press briefing that the BNP would hold processions and conduct mass campaigns across the country on Friday in protest against the election.

Objective of the strike

The BNP aims to garner support for its non-cooperation movement against the Awami Party-led dispensation through the strike. It has urged people not to pay taxes and utility bills to press its demand for a non-party interim government for election oversight by amending the country’s Constitution.

Through the strike, the opposition party is also demanding the release of its leaders, including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and Standing Committee Member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, who were arrested over charges of violence.