Bangladesh Ends Martial Law but Hundreds Protest Amendment

November 11, 1986|From Times Wire Services

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The government Monday ended 4 1/2 years of martial law while hundreds of demonstrators battled police in protests against President Hussain Mohammed Ershad's rule.

One youth was killed and more than 100 people were injured, witnesses and hospital sources said.

The demonstrators were protesting a a constitutional amendment, passed Monday by Parliament, that bars any legal challenge to actions that Ershad took under martial law after he seized power in a bloodless coup on March 24, 1982.

50 Firebombs Tossed

Five buses were set ablaze and more than 50 firebombs were tossed outside Dhaka University, police said. Thirty-four officers were reported injured.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital reported that a 14-year-old died of bullet wounds. The independent Eastern News Agency said he was hit when police opened fire to disperse bomb-throwing students.

Authorities said violence also broke out in the eastern provincial city of Chittagong, where demonstrators clashed with police and burned cars.

Ershad, who has ruled the country as chief martial law administrator, had promised to lift martial law after voters last month approved his first elected, five-year term as president. The opposition had denounced the election as fraudulent.

Addresses Nation

"I had said that I will not keep martial law one moment more than necessary," Ershad said Monday in a radio and television speech to the nation in which announced the end of martial law.

Sheik Hasina Wazed of the opposition Awami League said Monday that the opposition will not recognize the new constitutional amendment, which Parliament passed 223-0.

Hasina's coalition, which has 96 members, and the fundamentalist Muslim party Jamat-i-Islami boycotted the session.

"We will not accept the legalization of Ershad's rule," Hasina said. "This is anti-people legislation, and the masses will not accept it."

The opposition called a six-hour general strike to protest Parliament's action.

Hasina's Awami League coalition and the other major opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by Khaleda Zia, boycotted the Oct. 15 election, in which Ershad won an overwhelming victory against no solid opposition.

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