Bangladesh: opposition protests demand the resignation of the prime minister

Bangladesh: Opposition protests demand resignation of prime minister

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A huge crowd took to the streets of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, on Wednesday to show their anger at the rising cost of living, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the holding of elections. 

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other opposition allies held rallies in Dhaka and nine other cities.  

“The time for clinging to power by force is over,” said Mirza Abbas, a senior BNP leader, during a sit-in outside the party headquarters in the capital.  

“Let a neutral government organize elections”, he called.  

According to the police, 50,000 demonstrators came to listen to Mr. Abbas, freed jailed on Monday, a month after a major crackdown on opposition activists.  

But according to BNP officials, several hundred thousand protesters answered their call in Dhaka, and thousands more in similar rallies across the country.  

Bangladesh remains one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, but the conflict in Ukraine has forced the government to suspend imports of gas and diesel.  

Rising food and fuel prices in the wake of war in Ukraine forced Ms Hasina's government to impose long power cuts last year and increase food distribution to the poor.   

Bangladeshi's currency, the taka, has depreciated by nearly 25%, driving up the cost of food imports and making life even more difficult for the most vulnerable. &nbsp ;

The ruling Awami League staged a much smaller counter-protest in Dhaka in support of Ms. Hasina, shouting down calls for her resignation.  

“Extremists are coming together as one place to knock us down,” she told supporters on Tuesday, “don't think the party will crumble if it's shaken. Things are not that easy.”  

Western governments and the UN have expressed concern over the current political climate in Bangladesh where Ms. Hasina's party dominates parliament. 

In December 2021, the United States imposed sanctions on an elite counter-terrorism and anti-crime group, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and seven senior security officials, including the chief national police, for gross human rights violations. 

Ms. Hasina's government denies being behind any enforced disappearances of opposition supporters and leaders, and claims that several criminals were killed in exchanges of fire with officers.