Dhaka, Feb 22: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today sought “speedy” and “harsh” punishments of arsonists and their backers as her government tries to quell the political violence that has claimed over 100 lives. Speaking at a discussion with the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs minister, Hasina drew attention to the violence marking the shutdowns and blockades being enforced by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led opposition and said that people must be saved from the prevailing anarchy.
The prime minister’s strong comments came just a day after opposition announced a fresh 72-hour nationwide shutdown to intensify pressure on the government to hold fresh elections. “There should be speedy punishment of those caught red-handed… Those involved (such as) those instigating the incidents, those who are funding them, those who are making the bombs and supplying them. “In every stage, there should be harsh punishment because this situation cannot continue,” Hasina was quoted as saying by the Bdnews24.
The BNP-led coalition that includes fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami has been enforcing a continuous blockade since January 6, the first anniversary of the 2014 general elections that BNP boycotted, demanding interim elections. Over a hundred people have died until now in the ensuing violence, mostly due to burns caused by firebomb blasts. Numerous cases have been filed across the country, of which at least four name BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia as the key instigator, and some of the top BNP leaders have been lodged in jails by the authorities over the allegations of vandalising and torching vehicles.
The government has already announced that they would be forming a special tribunal under the Anti-terrorism Act to try these cases. Death sentence is the highest penalty for the guilty under that law.