Campaign attacks heighten fears for B’desh election

Dhaka: New clashes marred the deadly Bangladesh election campaign on Wednesday as opposition leaders stepped up complaints over the organisation of what they consider a one-sided vote.
Youths on motorbikes carrying a banner of the ruling Awami League attacked an opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party candidate with knives, hours after a BNP leader was wounded in clashes between rival party activists, police said.
Habibur Rahman Habib, a BNP candidate for parliament, was attacked by 15 men on motorbikes in the northern town of Ishwardi on Wednesday, according to police.
“He was hacked three times on his thigh. He was grievously injured but is out of danger,” local police chief Bahauddin Faruqi said. Late on Tuesday, senior BNP leader Goyeshwar Roy was injured as BNP and Awami League activists clashed in Dhaka district, police superintendent S M Shafiur Rahman said. Media images showed blood pouring down Roy’s face.
The campaign for Sunday’s vote has seen daily confrontations between supporters of the two main parties, which has further soured their bitter constitutional showdown.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is seeking a record fourth term, but her party has been accused of organising the arrest and intimidation of opposition candidates to boost her chances. The government denies any wrongdoing.
The BNP, whose leader Khaleda Zia is in jail, and its main Islamist ally claim more than 11,500 of their supporters have been detained since the election was called on November 8. Hundreds of their supporters have been injured in fighting, they say.
Six people — four BNP supporters and two from the Awami League — have been killed in the campaign violence.
The BNP-led opposition coalition demanded the resignation of the chief election commissioner Nurul Huda, accusing him of supporting ruling party followers in the unrest.
“It is not possible to get a non-partisan and neutral election from him and there is no possibility of fair treatment from him,” opposition spokesman Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
Opposition parties walked out of a meeting with Huda late on Tuesday, and have demanded a neutral election commissioner take over for Sunday’s vote.
They say the mass arrest of their followers — 8,243 from the BNP and 3,600 from the Jamaat-e-Islami — was intended to create a “climate of fear”.
Police have not confirmed the number of arrests during the campaign but insist all those detained had warrants against them. — AFP