DHAKA - Bangladesh's opposition began enforcing a 48-hour general strike Saturday on the eve of elections as its leader remained confined to her home.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is boycotting Sunday's polls, called the strike in a final bid to torpedo a contest which is already sure to be won by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League.
The strike comes after BNP leader Khaleda Zia issued an appeal to voters to also "completely boycott" what she called "a scandalous farce" and accused the government of placing her under house arrest.
The vote build-up has been dominated by violence, with election-related unrest killing around 150 people since the date was set in October.
Observers fear the contest will spur new unrest after Bangladesh endured its bloodiest 12 months since the brutal 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
The main headline in Saturday's Dhaka Tribune read: "Tension, fear mark build-up to the polls" while all newspapers carried pictures of the latest victims of the violence, many of them with horrific burns.
Although the government has officially denied Zia has been detained, aides say she has been barred from leaving her Dhaka home for nearly a week.
Dozens of riot police could be seen outside her home Saturday, along with water-cannon and sand trucks, preventing anyone from crossing through barriers.
In her first public comments since her confinement, Zia said "the government has effectively placed me under house arrest... and my house has been sealed off by security and intelligence agents".
The BNP and 20 other parties are boycotting the polls after Hasina rejected their demands that it be overseen by a neutral caretaker government.
This weekend strike is only the latest in a string of such protests which have forced the closure of schools, offices and shops.
Following a series of firebombing of cars and buses, many Bangladeshis are too scared to leave their homes during the shutdowns.
Police say 1,200 opposition activists have been detained although the parties say the actual number is much higher.