Bangladesh ministers quit to allow disputed all-party government

Bangladesh ministers quit to allow disputed all-party government

File photo of a protest in Dhaka

Dhaka: Bangladesh cabinet ministers submitted their resignations on Monday to allow Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to form an all-party government to prepare for polls, a plan rejected by the opposition which wants a neutral caretaker government.

The move comes as the impoverished South Asian country has been gripped by a four-day nationwide general strike to force Hasina's ruling Awami League to stage the elections under a technocrat-led government.

Hasina last month proposed the all-party interim government in a bid to break a deadlock over upcoming parliamentary polls slated for January.

But the main opposition BNP and its 17 allies have said they will not accept any government with Hasina in charge and are sticking to their demand for a caretaker government to organise the elections.

The Bangladesh ministers tendered their resignation letters to Hasina on Monday as the prime minister forged ahead with her plan to create the all-party government.

"The ministers are resigning to make way for a polls-bound government," the government's principal information officer Aminul Islam told AFP.

The ministers' resignation letters are now subject to the approval of the president, said another official.

The latest general strike - one of a series that began on October 25 to press for a neutral interim administration - was launched on Sunday.

At least 23 people have been killed in nationwide clashes during the newest wave of protests, which have pitted BNP supporters against ruling party activists and police.

Zia, who has twice served as premier, has branded the current government "illegal" and says a neutral caretaker government must be set up three months before the polls.

Hasina scrapped the caretaker system, arguing that it enabled the army to seize power in a country which has witnessed at least 19 coups since 1975.

Hasina has rejected Zia's demand for her to step down, calling it unconstitutional.

Bangladesh has been ruled alternately by Hasina and Zia since 1991, apart from when a military-backed government ran the country between 2007 and 2008.

Violence ahead of a cancelled election in 2007 killed dozens and led the country's powerful military to step in and form an army-backed caretaker government.

The BNP is leading in opinion polls ahead of the elections.

The fresh unrest is another blow to Bangladesh's impoverished economy whose industrial sector has been shaken by a series of deadly plant disasters.

The country has also been reeling from violent protests against war crime convictions stemming from Bangladesh's 1971 bloody war of independence.

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