Violence erupts prior to Bangladesh election as polling booths ignite

Before Bangladesh’s much-anticipated general election, a wave of violence has engulfed the nation.

In a series of suspected arson attacks, unidentified perpetrators targeted several primary schools, notably torching four polling booths in Gazipur, near the capital, Dhaka.

Law enforcement authorities are actively investigating these incidents that occurred under the cover of night, hinting at a deliberate attempt to disrupt the election proceedings set for the following day.

Expressing vigilance, Gazipur’s police chief, Kazi Shafiqul Alam, assured heightened patrols and heightened readiness to forestall any untoward occurrences.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), for the second time in three elections, opted to boycott the electoral process, citing alleged attempts by the ruling Awami League to orchestrate an illegitimate vote to secure a fourth consecutive term for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Amid escalating tensions, Hasina has firmly rejected the BNP’s demands for her resignation and the transfer of power to a neutral body overseeing the elections. She has instead accused the opposition of fueling anti-government demonstrations that have roiled Dhaka since late October, resulting in the deaths of at least ten individuals.

The BNP’s response has been to call for a boycott of the polls and to enforce a two-day strike, evident in the near-deserted streets of Dhaka typically bustling with traffic. The cityscape, now patrolled by security forces in armored vehicles, reflects the prevailing unease and apprehension.

Reports of arson targeting polling booths surfaced in various regions across the country, with incidents recorded in Moulavibazar, Habiganj, and Khulna. Authorities in Khulna apprehended two individuals allegedly attempting to set fire to a school, averting a similar calamity with community intervention the following day.

To ensure electoral security, an estimated 800,000 police, paramilitary personnel, and police auxiliaries are deployed to safeguard polling stations. Furthermore, the deployment of army, navy, and air force personnel has been authorized nationwide to maintain order and security.

However, amidst this charged atmosphere, a separate incident unfolded involving a passenger train, the Benapole Express, where at least four individuals, including a child, perished in a suspected arson attack. This horrific incident, apart from claiming lives, left eight others injured. The blame game ensued, with the BNP labeling it as an act of sabotage and holding the ruling party accountable, while the Awami League accused the opposition of instigating a “reign of terror.”

Fire service units managed to bring the train inferno in Dhaka’s Wari area under control after an hour-long battle against the flames, adding another distressing chapter to the already fraught scenario preceding the nation’s electoral process.

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