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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Bangladesh stops for strike
Police arrest an Awami League activist
Security forces prevented any mass protest
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By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers deployed in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka during a day-long general strike called by the opposition Awami League.

Awami League Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina has been strongly criticised over the strike

The strike brought transport and businesses to a halt on what should have been a normal working day in the predominantly Muslim country.

There was little violence, but two people were injured when a home-made bomb exploded in an area of old Dhaka city, police said.

The stoppage was called in protest at what the opposition says is the deteriorating law and order situation in Bangladesh.

It is also unhappy over the government's decision to ban portraits of the country's first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from public offices.

Sheikh Mujibur is the founder of the Awami League, and the father of its leader Sheikh Hasina.

Heavy security

This was the first day-long general strike called by the Awami League since it lost power in October.

Dhaka riot policemen
The opposition says law and order is deteriorating

Chanting opposition supporters met with a large security force presence on the streets of Dhaka, and their movements were restricted.

The authorities were eager to ensure that there was no repeat of violence on Friday in which numerous Awami League supporters were injured in street clashes with police who used batons and tear gas.

The two main stock exchanges were closed down, and cargo handling was severely disrupted.

Business leaders estimate that the strike has cost the country in excess of $60m.

The opposition leader Sheikh Hasina has been strongly criticised by the government for going ahead with the strike.

Ministers say that she reneged on a pledge made when she was prime minister not to hold general strikes, or hartals, because they cause so much damage to the country.

Continuing strikes

But for much of the last decade in Bangladesh, both main parties have frequently called hartals when they are in opposition.

When they are in office, they denounce such process as highly damaging to the nation.

The Awami League said it had no choice but to call Saturday's strike, because it is the most effective way of highlighting the persecution its supporters have suffered at the hands of the government.

The government says that the Awami League is trying to tarnish the international image of Bangladesh as part of its bid to win power.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh changes security law
11 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh law and order promise
08 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh protest against acid attacks
04 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bank robbers strike terror in Dhaka
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh cracks down on crime
10 Dec 01 | South Asia
Dhaka lynchings spread alarm
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