Curfew introduced after protests | Connect Asia

Curfew introduced after protests

Curfew introduced after protests

Updated 23 March 2012, 0:10 AEDT

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government has ordered an indefinite curfew in the capital Dhaka and five other cities.

The move follows violent student protests. The protests started at the Dhaka University on Monday and have since spread to other institutions across the country.

KARIM: I think a lot of things have pointed towards this direction. Unfortunately for the interim government now in control of things, too many factors piled up. They inherited the energy crunch and the rising prices and the lack of commodities in the markets, the floods. You've got to remember that about two-thirds of the country is now under water. And it's likely to remain under water for some more time. The last time we had such bad floods was almost 10 years ago. And people are suffering. Much to the credit of the interim government they have undertaken a lot of, many good things, many commendable things which only a government of this nature could do. It's not in the nature of such an interim government to be able to handle the complexity of issues when they come as a deluge from all directions.

FAYLE: The student movement seems to be a spontaneous outburst emanating from the University of Dhaka, yet it has spread quickly. Do you think that students have wider popular support?

KARIM: I was questioned earlier today by someone asking, who organised this? And I find that a little difficult to say that anyone's organised this. because remember the university is where in control of the last BNP (former ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party) student organisations until recently. And they're doing the change or whatever has not been really significant changeover in terms of what they can control of the student unions, rather the actions of the present government may well have united both the parties in focussing their attention on the army-backed interim government. So they have a common cause there. And what was needed was just a spark to let off resentment of various nature, not necessarily the resentments that have one particular reason which unites them. But all the resentments come to focus their energies at what they see is someone who has taken over power and is not delivering what they want.

FAYLE: So far, the police seem to have been doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to responding to the unrest. But is marshal law do you think the next step?

KARIM: It could very well be, you see what is surprising is, well perhaps not so surprising after all considering Bangladesh has a long history of antipathy to any type of authoritarian rule, I mean this goes back to the late 50s with the first Ayub Khan regime. That this sort of spontaneity in the outbursts across the country, across all the campuses in the country, while a state of emergency is already in position, unless they can control it quickly, marshal law will be the only option left.

FAYLE: But how united is the military on that?

KARIM: That's a good question, you know there have been different statements coming and from all accounts the chief of staff has time and again said that the army will not get involved in the governance of the country and they will be an aid of civil power. But there might well be elements who are impatient with the way things are done or have different or contrary views. So that remains to be seen how it will play off, I mean there are reports that there are other people who would like the army to be more proactive, whether these reports are self-fullfilling or whether these are just speculations remain to be seen.

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