A nationwide strike in Bangladesh called by the opposition party to protest the disappearance of a leading lawmaker has led to at least two deaths in the city of Sylhet and hundreds of people injured across the country, including the capital Dhaka. The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has called for the third consecutive day of strike action following the recent disappearance of BNP official Ilias Ali and his driver.
There were more than 10,000 protesters. They attacked policemen and tried to besiege a police station. We've fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells to disperse them, Sylhet police chief Shakhawat Hossain told Agence France Presse.
BNP believes that the government -- which is ruled by the Awami League -- of having abducted Ilias Ali.
“The government is staging a drama over the Ilias issue. They have to stop it and return Ilias to us,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary general of BNP, said at a press conference.
BBC reported that Ilias is the highest ranking opposition lawmaker to have “disappeared” since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League party took power in January 2009.
The government has denied any involvement in Ali’s disappearance.
The violence in Sylhet and elsewhere included rioting, acts of arson and attacks on the local police station. Schools and shops were largely closed in the country.
Fakhrul Islam further said that almost 400 people, including BNP vice-Chairman Selima Rahman have been arrested for planning an anti-government demonstration.
Political disappearances are endemic in Bangladesh.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said in a statement: ”Enforced disappearance has become a matter of everyday life, as torture is inevitable in the hands of the law enforcement agencies. Both disappearance and torture are the by-products of the 'rule of coerciveness' in absence of the 'rule of law' in Bangladesh.”
AHRC added: “It is matter of grave concern that the incidents of disappearance are increasing, alarmingly and unabatedly. The families of the disappeared persons continue screaming while the law-enforcing agencies and their political masters of the incumbent regime continue to deny the involvement of the State-agents in such heinous crimes.”
Al Jazeera reported that about 100 people have “disappeared” in Bangladesh in the past year.
Adilur Rahman, a Dhaka-based human-rights lawyer, told Al-Jazeera: “Many local politicians believe they are above the law. These disappearances are a form of quick justice.