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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 18:01 GMT
Huge opposition protest in Dhaka
By Waliur Rahman
BBC News, Dhaka

Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina during a rally in Dhaka
Opposition allege the transport strike was deliberate to foil the rally
Tens of thousands of people have attended an opposition rally in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, demanding the government step down.

The opposition alliance of 14 parties, led by the Awami League, organised the rally amid tight security.

Opposition supporters also clashed with police in a few areas on their way to the rally venue.

However, the four-year-old government says it will not quit before its term ends in October next year.

At the rally, the alliance announced a 23-point national programme, which is seen as election pledges to be implemented if they win the next election.

'Obstructions'

Speaking in a heavily guarded public ground in Dhaka, opposition leader Sheikh Hasina said the massive gathering was a no-confidence vote for the government and it should step down immediately.

"Thousands of people have come here to attend the rally defying all sorts of obstructions created by the government," she said.

Riot police beat up a group of opposition activists during a rally in Dhaka
It was one of the biggest gathering of opposition supporters in years

"It proves the people have lost confidence in the government."

It was one of the biggest gatherings in recent years, with people turning up despite a transport strike.

They came on foot beating drums and carrying banners and placards, and national and party flags shouting anti-government slogans.

The former prime minister said the government had failed to run the country according to its pledges and it should quit immediately paving the way for an early general election.

She also asked the police and bureaucrats not to protect what she described as the failed government any more.

Opposition politicians alleged that the transport strike was backed by the government in an attempt to foil the rally. But the government denies the charge.

Ms Hasina also called for a one-day countrywide general strike on Thursday to press the opposition demands.




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