Hasina fails to reach Zia over phone, shutdown looms
Dhaka: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday telephoned her arch-rival Khaleda Zia to invite her for talks to resolve a standoff on holding the next general election but failed to reach her, even as Bangladesh braced for a shutdown called by the main opposition BNP.
"The Prime Minister called the opposition leader at her official phone at 1:15 pm (local time) but nobody picked it for half an hour," Abul Kalam Azad, press secretary to the premier, told reporters here.
Hasina's special assistant Mahbubul Haque Shakil said the premier tried to reach Zia from 1:15 pm to 1:45 pm but no one responded to her phone call.
He said Hasina was still trying to reach Zia, the chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
BNP's acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters that Zia's official phone "is out of order for a long time" and all her lines "remain out of order most of the times."
An official said a personal aide of Hasina also called the BNP chief's special assistant, Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas.
"He (Biswas) was told that the Prime Minister is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Awami League's parliamentary party at 6pm. The Leader of the Opposition can call her back by 6pm, if she wants to," the official said.
Hasina reached out to her arch-rival a day after BNP supporters staged violent protests across Bangladesh to push the party's demand for setting up an interim government comprising of non-political individuals. Six persons were killed and over 300 injured in clashes between BNP workers and security forces.
Zia has threatened to launch a 60-hour nationwide shutdown from tomorrow if her demands are not met. Hasina has proposed the formation of a caretaker government with representatives of all political parties, but this was rejected by Zia.
The violence continued today as suspected opposition activists blasted seven crude bombs in front of the houses of a Supreme Court judge, the environment minister and a police office. A bus and a private car was set ablaze.
No one was injured in the explosions but they sparked fears of violence ahead of the possible shutdown. Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops guarded the streets in the capital where most residents preferred to stay indoors and the streets looked deserted.