DHAKA, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Scores of polling centers in Bangladesh capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country have been torched ahead of Sunday's controversial parliament elections, source said Saturday.
They said unidentified miscreants torched about 80 polling centers in the country's 28 districts including Dhaka till Saturday afternoon despite beefed-up security measures with deployment of around 400,000 police and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel and tens of thousands of Army troops.
Fresh wave of violence erupted as ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia 's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is asking people to boycott the elections.
Some 21 parties, including main opposition BNP, are boycotting the elections over Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's refusal to introduce a non-party interim government to oversee the parliament polls.
BNP's deputy chief Tarique Rahman, through a video statement from London Saturday, urged people to resist the elections at any cost.
He made the plea just a day after his mother Khaleda Zia, chairperson of BNP, made similar call for boycotting the polls.
Mired in controversy, Bangladesh's 10th parliamentary election is being held in just 147 out of 300 seats in 59 out of 64 districts of the country. 153 candidates have already been elected unopposed amid boycott by the main opposition and its allies.
Urging people to refrain from casting ballots, Khaleda's 18- party alliance began a two-day strike in protest against what it called a "scandalous farce" elections.
Osman Faruq, a spokesperson for Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP), Friday announced the strike at a press briefing, saying the strike is also aimed at protesting confinement of the party chief Khaleda Zia.
Faruq dismissed the elections as a "scandalous farce" to ensure the continuation of Hasina's government and urged people to refrain from casting ballots.
The ongoing nationwide blockade of rail, roads and waterways is continuing alongside the shutdown which triggered wide spread violence across the country, leaving one dead and dozens injured.
A leader of BNP's youth wing died in clashes between the ruling and the opposition men in Lalmonirhat, some 343 km northwest of capital Dhaka, on Saturday.
Stray incidents of clash, arson, vandalism, explosion and detention in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country have also been reported in the fourth day's blockade program which came after the end of the opposition's a two-day "March for Democracy" on Monday.
Tensions are running high as already panic-stricken people from the ongoing indefinite blockades fear violence may scale up further since the opposition alliance called to resist the elections.
The opposition alliance had earlier enforced blockade for a total of 22 days since Nov. 26 last year after the Election Commission announced schedule for the 10th parliamentary polls. Scores of people were killed in violence in the announcement of schedule for the polls.
Bangladeshi Election Commission, however, said it had already directed the law-enforcement agencies to ensure foolproof security so that voters can cast their ballots without fear.
"We're ready to hold a fair and peaceful election," Election Commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman told Xinhua.
He said ample security measures have already been taken in view of the ongoing volatile situation."
But the EC spokesman could not tell immediately the exact number of polling centers which were torched.
"A significant number of polling centers were burnt fully or partially. We're changing the centers which have been damaged," Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said Saturday in Dhaka.
As part of beefed up security measures to rein in poll-related violence, tens of thousands of troops have been deployed across the country.
Sources said Hasina's Awami League-led 14-Party Alliance is trying their best to ensure a high turn out of voters for Sunday's parliamentary elections boycotted by the opposition parties.
They said if voter turnout reaches over 51 percent it will be a big relief for Hasina's ruling coalition to manage recognition from international community.
Analysts also say that the fate of this election, which is reportedly being held with less number of international observers, will likely depend on the voter turnout.
The European Union, the Commonwealth and the United States have not dispatched poll observers to the country.
Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez- Taranco wrapped up his six-day Bangladesh visit on Dec.11 with merely the hope that the "two major parties will continue discussions."
The United Nations brokered talks yielded no outcome later as Hasina's Awami League and Khaleda's BNP were adamant on their stance.
Khaleda has asked Hasina to bring back the non-party caretaker system, or else the opposition won't participate in the election because it fears an election without the non-party caretaker government will not be free and fair.
Since 1996, in the country the caretaker government has held elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008, which were recognized as free and fair by local and international observers.
Bangladesh plunged into a major political crisis in late 2006 and it returned to democracy after two years of army-backed rule following a widely acceptable parliament elections in 2008 under caretaker government.
Bangladesh opposition calls 48-hour strike urging people to refrain from casting ballots
DHAKA, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Bangladesh's main opposition on Friday called a nationwide 48-hour strike form Saturday morning demanding cancellation of Jan. 5 general elections.
Osman Faruq, a spokesperson for Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP), announced the strike at a press briefing, saying the strike is also aimed at protesting confinement of the party chief Khaleda Zia. Full story