Opposition Asks General Strike To Force President Ershad To Resign
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ The nation’s two top opposition leaders appealed for a general strike to shut down Bangladesh on Saturday as their latest move to force President Hussain Muhammad Ershad to resign.
Sheik Hasina, leader of the Awami League, the largest opposition party, announced the strike at a rally Friday of more than 500 supporters held in defiance of Ershad’s ban on political protests.
She and Khaleda Zia, head of the Bangadesh Nationalist Party, were released from house arrest Thursday as part of Ershad’s overtures toward conciliation. These included dissolving Parliament and promising new legislative elections within 90 days, as stipulated by the constitution.
Mrs. Zia told a news conference Friday the monthlong opposition campaign would keep up until Ershad was out.
The campaign has brought Ershad his worst crisis since he seized power in 1982.
The president declared a state of emergency Nov. 27 after the campaign turned violent. Political rallies and news coverage of opposition activities are banned.
″We do not accept the emergency, press restrictions and other repressive measures,″ Hasina told the rally outside Dhaka University.
Opposition supporters later marched through central Dhaka in a torchlight procession, shouting their support of a strike.
Police fired tear gas shells to disperse the marchers, said witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Police also twice entered Dhaka University on Friday to scatter students shouting anti-Ershad slogans, but officers said no one was arrested. The university has been closed since the opposition campaign started Nov. 10.
Ershad, 57, was army chief of staff when he took power in a bloodless coup in 1982. He held parliamentary and presidential elections last year. His Jatiya Party secured a majority and he was voted president.
But opposition members say both polls were rigged. Hasina and Mrs. Zia have refused to take part in elections if Ershad continues in power.
Hasina, 40, is the daughter of the first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur, assassinated in 1975. Mrs. Zia, 43, is the widow of another former president, Gen. Ziaur Rahman, assassinated in 1981.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, became independent in 1971.