Bangladesh paralysed by opposition strike

DHAKA: Thousands of riot police and elite paramilitary forces were deployed in the Bangladeshi capital Sunday after violence ahead of a nationwide strike to protest changes to the country's electoral system.

At least 12 buses were set on fire overnight and 40 people were arrested, police said, just hours before the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) enforced its strike.

All shops, businesses and schools were shut in the capital on Sunday and major roads and highways were deserted.

At least 8,000 police and 1,500 paramilitary forces were deployed in the city on Sunday to prevent violence, local police officials said, while thousands more were on duty across the country.

"We have tight security arrangement throughout the city. So far the situation is peaceful. There is no incidence of violence anywhere in the capital," Dhaka police commissioner Benazir Ahmed told AFP.

The strike was called after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from the ruling Awami League party announced plans last week to scrap the country's system under which a caretaker government takes over during election time.

The system is designed to cover three months over each election in Bangladesh, which has a long tradition of political violence since independence in 1971.

Opposition leader Khaleda Zia told reporters Saturday her party would not contest any future polls if the government went ahead in scrapping the caretaker system, which oversaw four successive polls.

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