Bangladesh police arrest 1,000 activists before anti-government rally

Bangladesh's main opposition alliance said Friday that police have arrested more than a thousand activists in nationwide raids ahead of an anti-government rally planned for the weekend. The Awami League and 13 allied parties have been urging supporters to join the opposition demonstration Sunday in the capital, Dhaka, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's coalition government, accusing it of incompetence, corruption and authoritarianism.

But the Awami League's general secretary said Friday that police have been working to curb the rally. "The government has cracked down on us to foil our planned protest," Abdul Jalil said. "Police have so far arrested up to 1,000 opposition members who have been mobilizing supporters to come to join the rally in Dhaka."

Police officials were not immediately available to comment. The Daily Star and Janakantha newspapers reported that police arrested opposition activists in several towns on Wednesday and Thursday as they prepared to leave for Dhaka.

Opposition parties have recently launched a campaign of street protests and general strikes accusing the government of graft, fixing the electoral roll in its favor and of failing to curb rising Islamic militancy.

The government denies all opposition allegations and has vowed to remain in power until its five-year term expires in October this year. A caretaker government will then run the country until elections set for January, 2007.

Bangladesh, an impoverished nation of 140 million people, has a history of political violence. Two Bangladeshi presidents have been assassinated in military coups, and there have been 19 other failed coups since its independence from Pakistan in 1971, reports the AP.


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