In a disturbing turn of events, four Bangladeshi opposition activists lost their lives on Tuesday as a three-day strike led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami escalated into violent clashes with police. This outburst of unrest was triggered by the recent murder charges laid against their top leaders and the demand for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to relinquish her power in anticipation of upcoming elections.
The demonstrations, which saw roads and railways blocked across the nation, culminated in violence erupting in multiple cities and towns. Two members of the BNP were killed in the town of Kuliarchar, located north of the capital, Dhaka. While the exact circumstances of their deaths remained unclear, BNP official Shariful Alam asserted that they were "shot dead by the police" during a rally attended by more than 2,000 protesters. In addition to the fatalities, more than 100 individuals sustained injuries in the clashes.
Reports of clashes and fatalities also emerged from Kishoreganj, Sylhet, and Comilla, where confrontations between BNP members and the police led to four deaths. Protesters resorted to setting fire to buses and engaging in confrontations with security forces, employing petrol bombs and projectiles against the officers. Police officers, in turn, used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the agitated crowds, though at least 15 officers were reported injured during the clashes.
The BNP launched its transport blockade following a rally on Saturday, during which more than 100,000 supporters of the two major opposition parties demanded a free and fair election under the supervision of a neutral government. This came in the wake of the police charging BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and over 150 other high-ranking party members with the murder of a policeman during earlier demonstrations.
The escalating violence has prompted international concern, with seven nations, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, and Japan, collectively urging restraint and an end to violence while advocating for collaboration to ensure a free and fair election. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the 75-year-old Secretary-General of the BNP, has been leading the party in the absence of BNP chairwoman and former premier Khaleda Zia, who is currently under house arrest after a conviction on corruption charges, and her son's exile in Britain.
Dhaka police have been actively cracking down on opposition activists and supporters, with at least 1,727 arrests made in the past week. Furthermore, over 1,544 opposition activists and leaders have been charged with involvement in violent activities that transpired on Saturday. The volatile situation in Bangladesh underscores the urgency of international intervention and diplomatic efforts to restore peace and stability to the country.