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Khaleda lines up non-stop blockades

A lawyer loyal to the BNP throws stones during Monday’s protest. (Reuters)

Dhaka, Dec. 31 (PTI): A radical Jamaat-e-Islami leader was killed today in Bangladesh in a clash with security forces as the Opposition geared up for non-stop nationwide blockades from New Year’s Day to derail the January 5 general election.

Police said Jamaat leader Abdul Jabbar was killed in a battle between Opposition activists and joint forces made up of the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh and the police in western Meherpur district, bordering India.

“The members of the law enforcement agencies were injured in the gunfight,” a police officer told a TV channel.

In Dhaka, activists of the main Opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), held marches and exploded bombs.

Last night, the BNP, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, had called for a nationwide blockade of roads, railways and waterways after it was barred for the second consecutive day from staging a “march for democracy” in the capital.

A supporter of the ruling Awami League today sued Khaleda for making “hateful and defamatory” remarks about the home district of her arch-rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed.

A.B. Siddique filed the case two days after Khaleda had said she would change the name of southwestern Gopalganj if she returned to power.

The comments came on December 29 when the police barred Khaleda from coming out of her residence as her party tried to stage a march defying a government ban.

Khaleda asked a policewoman where she was from. “Listen to me, you the woman, where do you hail from? Are you a Gopali (an apparent reference to Gopalganj)?” she was heard saying.

“The name of Gopalganj district will be changed.... Gopalganj will cease to exist.”

The BNP-led 18-party Opposition alliance has been demanding Hasina’s resignation and cancellation of the election.

The Opposition has dubbed the January poll “farcical” as over half the 300 parliamentary seats are set to be decided uncontested in the absence of Opposition candidates.

The Opposition wants Hasina replaced and says an election under her administration would not be credible. But the Awami League has rejected the demand.

Dhaka was virtually cut off from the rest of the country for the second day yesterday, with transport services were halted to stop Opposition supporters entering the city.

Some transport operators, including the state-run railways, said they had suspended services fearing sabotages while pro-government transport associations called strikes against the past few weeks of violence.

The police have laid a siege around Khaleda’s home and the BNP’s central office at Naya Paltan.

Some 122 people have been killed in the past one month since the Opposition began enforcing blockades.

War crime charge

Abdus Subhan, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, has been charged with crimes relating to the 1971 war by a special Bangladeshi court.

Subhan, in his 70s, has been accused of “murder, genocide, loot, abduction, confinement, arson and torture”.

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