The general strike called by the 14-party opposition led by Awami League (AL) trying to force electoral reforms turned violent with the army and police fighting running battles with civilians leaving 25 people wounded in Dhaka and 100 in other areas. Former Prime Minister and AL leader Sheikh Hasina called the strike to force the caretaker government of President Iajuddin Ahmed to implement reforms in doctored electoral rolls and composition of the Election Commission (EC).
Troops in armored vehicles patrolled the streets and engaged protesters violently with tear-gas shells, rubber bullets, and forcible arrests. Protesters responded by burning police vehicles and stoning riot police and independent witnesses say that the violent protesters were chased away by the troops by pointing guns at them. Outside Dhaka, protesters damaged over 50 vehicles, halted trains, and barricaded roads. The Chittagong port and several land-ports were idle and universities and schools in Dhaka and Chittagong were closed.
The army deployment came in for strong criticism by Ahmed’s advisers, many of whom have resigned for his unilateral decision to deploy troops. The opposition now charges Ahmed with nepotism and wants him to quit and say that a congenial atmosphere for a free and fair election does not exist. They reject Ahmed’s plans to send one of the EC members, accused of being Begum Khaleda Zia’s agent, on leave as insufficient. The EC has extended the last day for filing nominations to December 24 so elections may be held January 22. However, with the entire opposition refusing to comply, it is inconceivable that the elections can be held on that date or that it will be a free and fair one.