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Two Die in Bangladesh as Opposition Activists Clash With Police

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Bangladesh Protests
Bangladeshi police use water cannon to disperse Bangladesh Nationalist Party supporters during a protest in Dhaka on December 29, 2013. Photographer: Munir uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Two people died in Bangladesh as opposition activists clashed with security forces over an anti-election rally.

Mansur Pradhania, 22, died from bullet wounds during clashes in the capital Dhaka yesterday, police inspector Mozammel Hoque said by phone. A security guard was killed in an explosion at the railway station, the Daily Star reported.

More than 100 people have died and hundreds were injured since October in violence tied to the elections and a war crimes tribunal, Human Rights Watch said on Dec. 17. Security forces blocked access to opposition leader Khaleda Zia’s house and office in Dhaka, preventing other leaders of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party from meeting her, spokesman Nazrul Islam Khan said Dec. 27. The party is boycotting the Jan. 5 elections.

“This is nothing but repression by an undemocratic government,” Zia told reporters. The opposition and its allies will continue to demonstrate, she said.

Dhaka’s Metropolitan Police denied permission for the gathering, citing security reasons, Channel 24 reported earlier. Security forces used water cannons to bar a group of lawyers from joining the rally, television footage showed. Public transportation was off roads in the capital, leaving thousands of people stranded.

Caretaker Government

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s move to abandon the practice of allowing a caretaker government to oversee the vote has added to tensions with opponents. Failure to agree on rules for picking the country’s leaders risks more violence in the world’s second-biggest garment exporter where the economy has grown by about 6 percent a year on average since 2008.

“Any attempt to prevent the general election will prompt legal action,” Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told reporters in Dhaka on Dec. 26. The rally announced by Zia’s BNP is a “march for destruction, not for democracy,” he said.

The U.S. last week expressed disappointment with Bangladesh’s political leaders and joined the European Union in declining to send observers for next month’s election. A boycott by opposition parties led by the BNP allowed Hasina’s Awami League to win 127 of 154 uncontested seats out of 300, Bangladesh’s election commission announced this month.

Elections in the remaining 146 constituencies will be held at the beginning of January.

Bangladesh has seen three coups and two dozen smaller rebellions since the nation gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 in a war that left millions dead. Last year, Bangladesh’s army announced that it foiled an attempt by former and serving officers to oust Hasina.

Earlier this month, Bangladesh put to death a top leader of an Islamic party aligned with the opposition BNP for war crimes that took place four decades ago, the first execution stemming from a tribunal established in 2009. A year earlier, Hasina’s ruling party had campaigned to set up the tribunal in winning the last election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Arun Devnath in Dhaka at adevnath@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

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