LEAD: A 54-hour general strike called to force the resignation of President H. M. Ershad provoked violent clashes today between the President’s supporters and mobs fielded by opposition parties.
A 54-hour general strike called to force the resignation of President H. M. Ershad provoked violent clashes today between the President’s supporters and mobs fielded by opposition parties.
At least five people died, including two in the capital, and hundreds of demonstrators were injured in the clashes and in firebomb attacks as the strike went into its second day, according to the police. The unofficial death toll is thought to be at least eight.
Fifty-one police officers were injured and one was taken hostage by a crowd, the Government-run news broadcast said tonight.
Most casualties occurred when the police fired on stone-throwing mobs that were attacking the headquarters of the President’s political party, Jatiya, in the central business district. Police officers shot at demonstrators after failing to disperse them with tear gas. Photographers Are Beaten
Four newspaper photographers were beaten by police officers during the attacks; press organizations are protesting the police charge.
The head office of the national airline, Bangladesh-Biman, was also stormed by a crowd of several thousand people. Three vehicles were burned.
Since the strike began, 31 public buses have been damaged or destroyed by supporters of the action, and 15 drivers or conductors have been injured, five of them critically, the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation said.
The strike was called by the opposition after President Ershad refused to step down or withdraw a bill enacted by the legislature on July 12 that allows military officers to serve on district development councils. Charge of Militarization
The restructuring of local councils to give the army a grass-roots role is ”the first step to militarizing the entire civil administration,” the President’s opponents said in statements.
The shutdown or disruption of commerce, education and most public transportation here and in towns around the country has raised political tension to its highest level since the lifting of martial law last Nov. 10, according to residents of Dhaka.
Most people stayed at home today, despite Government pleas that life go on as usual. Only Government workers were reported to have gone to their jobs in significant numbers. Opposition crowds have been stoning people and vehicles that defy an unofficial curfew.
The strike began Wednesday at 6 A.M. local time and is due to continue until noon on Friday, the beginning of the Moslem Sabbath. Issue Unified Opposition
The issue of the district council has unified and injected new life into an opposition that was badly splintered in the spring of 1986 over whether to take part in national parliamentary elections called by Mr. Ershad when he was martial-law administrator. In October, he was elected President.
The alliance of six political parties formed around the Awami League of Sheikh Hasina Wajed – the daughter of President Sheik Mujibur Rahman, who was killed in an army coup in 1975 – decided at the last minute to take part in the May 7, 1986, parliamentary elections.
Another opposition alliance, led by Khaleda Zia – the chairman of the Bangladesh National Party and the widow of President Ziaur Rahman, who was also assassinated – boycotted the voting.
The decision of the two factions to join in calling for a national strike on the issue of the District Councils Bill is viewed here as an interesting experiment in testing the joint political strength of the opposition. President Ershad’s term has another five years to run.