Bangladesh opposition leader urges vote boycott
Bangladeshi police stand guard in front of the residence of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Khaleda Zia in Dhaka on December 30, 2013
"I am urging my fellow Bangladeshis to completely boycott this scandalous farce," said Khaleda Zia, whose Bangladesh Nationalist Party has refused to take part in Sunday's election.
"No one at home and abroad will call this farce a credible election," Zia said in a statement.
Zia's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and 20 other political outfits are boycotting the January 5 polls after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected their demand that it be overseen by a neutral caretaker government.
Although the government has officially denied Zia has been detained, aides say the BNP leader has been barred from leaving her Dhaka home for nearly a week.
Dozens of riot police could be seen stationed outside her home on Friday, along with water-cannons, and prevented anyone from crossing through barriers.
In her first public comments since her confinement, Zia said: "Without any announcement, the government has effectively placed me under house arrest."
"They are not allowing me outside and my house has been sealed off by security and intelligence agents."
She also accused Hasina's ruling Awami League of "killing democracy," vowing to "resist this autocrat".
Her call came as a BNP-led opposition alliance announced plans to hold a new 48-hour nationwide strike starting from Saturday to foil the vote.
Zia's adviser Osman Faruk made the announcement after a BNP delegation held a fruitless meeting with President Abdul Hamid, whose post is largely ceremonial, to again push for a postponement.
The strike will continue until Monday morning and comes amid an ongoing blockade of roads, railways and waterways.
The strike could trigger violence in the impoverished South Asian country, which has been reeling under the deadliest unrest since its independence in 1971.
At least 142 people have been killed in election-related violence since late October.
In the latest violence, two people were killed after a truck was fire-bombed by protesters in a northern town, police said, adding that five voting booths have also been torched in another town in the north.
In the capital Dhaka, at least two bus passengers and the driver were burnt after a petrol bomb attack.
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