UN sends official to broker peace deal to end unrest in Bangladesh

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Concerned over the political crisis and escalating violence in Bangladesh, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has deputed a senior official to broker a peace initiative to end the Opposition-led non-stop nationwide strikes that have claimed over 100 lives in over a month.

“The secretary general is personally committed to the stability and positive development of Bangladesh,” a UN spokesman said.

The UN secretary general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban tasked UN’s assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to liaise with the government and “he’s doing just that”.

“Bangladesh, as you know, is a critical partner of the United Nations in many areas. We are very much concerned about the violence and loss of life (there),” Dujarric was quoted as saying by the local media.

Ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has continued to enforce a nationwide transport blockade since January 6 demanding a mid-term polls while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the idea asking her arch rival to wait until 2019 when the next general elections are scheduled to be held.

BNP was virtually in a state of disarray since it boycotted the January 5 elections but it waged a fierce campaign last month coinciding with the first anniversary of the divisive polls demanding a fresh midterm election.

Most of the casualty victims were ordinary people who were killed in clandestine firebomb attacks on buses by suspected blockaders or hired goons.

Doctors said the burn unit of state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) alone treated 126 arson victims since the outbreak of the unrest.

Meanwhile, BNP has planned to bring in a change in their campaign pattern and decided to stage street demonstrations on Saturday and enforce fresh nationwide hartals from Sunday.

But the fresh UN move came as Hasina two days ago categorically rejected a civil society call for dialogue with BNP saying she would not compromise with “murderers”.

Ahead of the last year’s divisive polls Taranco came to Dhaka as the UN chief’s special envoy but his peace mission eventually turned abortive as the Awami League and BNP leaders abandoned talks after three rounds of meeting mediated by him.

The UN, US and UK earlier expressed concerns about the escalating violence in Bangladesh while the US state department last week issued a fresh statement saying “we condemn in the strongest terms the use of violence for political objectives”.