In the violence on Saturday, two police motorbikes were torched and six policemen were wounded, two of them critically, when they went to inspect a polling station at Palashbari area of northwestern Gaibandha, officials said.

The BNP, which is boycotting the January 5 polls, urged voters to ‘fully boycott’ what its Chief Khaleda Zia described as a ‘stigmatized farce’. She accused the government of keeping her under ‘house arrest’.

An Awami League activist and a BNP worker were killed as violence erupted in parts of Bangladesh after the 18-party opposition alliance led by the BNP enforced the nationwide strike from 6 am.

Suspected activists of BNP and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e-Islami set on fire dozens of polling centres. Unidentified men reportedly torched makeshift polling centres, mostly housed in schools, in 35 districts including the capital since Zia issued the statement.

The Opposition called the strike to intensify street protests against the polls.

Without the participation of the BNP and its allies, polling would be held in only 147 of 300 constituencies, Election Commission (EC) officials said. Candidates in the other constituencies would be declared elected unopposed.

"We have wrapped up preparations to conduct the polls on Sunday...the polling will start at 8 am and continue till 4 pm," an EC spokesman said.
About 3,75,000 security personnel have been deployed across Bangladesh to maintain peace and nearly 50,000 army troops are on vigil to act as a ‘striking force’, officials said.

Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh and Rapid Action Battalion forces are working with police to ensure that the vote passes off peacefully.

A total of 390 candidates, mostly from the Awami League and its ally Jatiya Party, are contesting from 147 seats where the number of voters is nearly 44 million.
BNP chief and former premier Zia, in a statement, said: "No one at home and abroad will recognize it as election and through this the Awami League government will appear anew as an illegal structure...January 5 will be recognized as a black date."

She asked Opposition activists and people to carry on the campaign against what she said was an ‘autocratic rule’. Zia alleged that the government was keeping her under ‘house arrest’ at her up-market residence in Gulshan area of Dhaka.

The government has rejected this allegation, saying foreign envoys and senior BNP leaders have met Zia during the past few days.


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