Opposition party holdsprotest as it boycotts polls

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Hundreds of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party supporters protested Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, to mark International Human Rights Day, as the country gears up for a general election on Jan. 7 that the opposition says should be held under a non-partisan, caretaker government.

The party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, is boycotting the election, leaving voters in the South Asian nation of 166 million with little choice but to re-elect Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League for a fourth consecutive term. At Sunday’s protest in front of the National Press Club in downtown Dhaka, opposition activists said they do not think a fair and free election can take place under Hasina’s watch. The gathering took place weeks after a massive opposition rally on Oct. 28 turned violent.

The party’s decision to boycott the polls comes amid a monthslong crackdown that has reportedly seen hundreds of opposition politicians jailed and critics silenced, an allegation authorities have denied.

Demonstrators on Sunday carried banners that read “Human chain of family members of the victims of murder and enforced disappearances” and “We want the unconditional release of all prisoners.”

After the Oct. 28 rally, authorities arrested thousands of party leaders and activists including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. Many others have gone into hiding, and hundreds have been convicted by courts on charges of violence or subversive acts that the opposition says are politically motivated.

New York-based Human Rights Watch in a report last month put the number of arrested opposition activists at 10,000 since Oct. 28 and said that at least 16 people including two police officers died during the period of violence.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, joint secretary general of Zia’s party, told a video conference from hiding that the government has arrested or punished political leaders and activists under fictitious charges to ensure a lopsided election result.

While critics have slammed the election as a farce, the government has rejected allegations of a crackdown on the opposition and says the polls will be democratically held and inclusive.


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.