An indefinite transport blockade called by the Bangladeshi opposition is taking a heavy toll on businesses, the chamber of commerce said Thursday.

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The losses amount to nearly 4.7 billion dollars (364 billion taka) in 16 major business sectors in the country, according to an estimate by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We are dealing with everyday loss of nearly 293 million dollars in the major business sectors,” Hossain Khaled, president of the chamber, said.

Violence erupted in different parts of the country after former prime minister Khaleda Zia called a nationwide transport blockade on January 5, the first anniversary of a controversial election that her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and allies boycotted.

According to official estimates, at least 30 people have since been killed in firebomb attacks on passenger buses, cars and trucks as vehicles plied on highways in defiance of the blockade.

Khaled from the chamber of commerce urged politicians to bring to an end to the standoff.

He said the sectors worst affected were those for ready-made garments, transportation, real estate, agriculture, tourism and trade.

Zia has asked her rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to announce fresh elections under a non-partisan caretaker administration.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League party turned down the demand and instead asked Zia to wait until the next election scheduled for 2019.

The government Wednesday launched a widespread crackdown on opposition activists after it announced bounties to help capture the suspected arsonists.

More than 7,000 people, mainly opposition activists, have been arrested for suspected involvement in the attacks, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu told reporters.

Mokhlesur Rahman, the additional inspector general of police, said: “Police were asked to show zero tolerance on any acts of terrorism.”

Police Thursday prevented several hundred pro-government transport workers from laying siege to the office of BNP chief Zia. The workers said they would go on a “fast unto death” from Sunday unless Zia withdraws the blockade.
GNA

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