Non-stop blockade from Jan 1

December 31, 2013

Countrywide demo today; British envoy meets Khaleda; Shamsher Mobin detained The BNP-led 18-party alliance yesterday announced a non-stop blockade programme across the country from 6:00am Wednesday, demanding the cancellation of January 5 general elections. BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s adviser Advocate Khandaker Mahbub Hossain announced the fresh programme at a press conference at his Baridhara residence on behalf the opposition leader.
“We will observe a non-stop blockade programme from Wednesday morning demanding cancellation of January 5 farcical elections and holding polls on the basis of a consensus. The non-stop and peaceful blockade programme will continue until the next announcement,” he said.
As part of the programme, he said the 18-party alliance will stage demonstration across the country today protesting the government obstruction to holding ‘March for Democracy’ programme.
Hossain also called upon the people to take to the streets to save the democracy in the country.
“The country will be brought to a standstill through observing the non-stop blockade. Although it may cause sufferings to the people and the economy, we will request all to make the programme a success for the greater interest of the country,” he said.
Hossain, also the vice-chairman of the Bangladesh Bar Council, warned the government of dire consequences if it further obstructs the blockade programme.
Replying to a question regarding the success of the opposition programme, he said, “Look at the situation on the streets.”
“The government has been forced to create obstruction to preventing the people from joining Dhaka march programme,” he said.
Earlier, the BNP-led 18-Party Alliance failed to stage any demonstration in the city even on Monday, the second day of its ‘March for Democracy’ programme, due to keen vigil of law enforcement agencies and ruling party supporters.
The opposition, however, observed its sit-in programme at divisional headquarters, districts and upazilas, and locked in clashes with police and ruling party activists. The clashes left over 50 people injured.
In Dhaka, members of law enforcement agencies and ruling party supporters were found active in foiling any attempt by opposition supporters to stage their march towards the BNP headquarters in the city.
Carrying sticks, supporters of the Jubo Mohila Awami League, backed by some Awami League activists, were involved in a clash with pro-opposition lawyers on the premises of the Supreme Court.
However, the police intervened to disperse both the sides.
On Monday, Khaleda Zia’s residence was again barricaded off by the police to prevent her from going out to the party headquarters at Naya Paltan, so that she could not join the pre-planned Dhaka March programme.
The BNP chairperson came out of her residence at about 2:45pm and got into her car, but the law enforcers barred her from leaving the house.
Three BNP leaders were released sometime after they were detained while trying to enter Khaleda Zia’s home at about 1:30pm. They are: Selima Rahman, Rasheda Akter Hira, MP, and Halima Newaz Early, MP.
In the afternoon, several BNP leaders, including Shasher Mobin Chowdhury, Sabih Uddin and Reaz Rahman, visited Khaleda without any obstruction. They were followed by British high commission Robert Gibson, who met the opposition leader in the evening. Shortly after the meeting, the Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) arrested BNP Vice-chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury from in front of Khaleda Zia’s residence.
Police said, a team of DB police arrested Shamser Mobin Chowdhury around 7:45pm and took him to its headquarters at Minto Road.
DMP Deputy Commissioner (Media) Masudur Rahman confirmed the arrest but refused to reveal the charges brought against the BNP leader.
The sufferings of city dwellers continued as the movement of public transports in and outside the city remained restricted for the second day.
In the evening, two pedestrians were injured in a crude bomb explosion in front of the National Press Club.
No water vessel left the Sadarghat terminal and no vessel anchored at the terminal on Monday. The train services were irregular for foggy weather.
Local leaders of 18-Party Alliance called a daylong hartal in Bhola for Tuesday, protesting against the arrest of BNP leader Hafiz Uddin Ahmed. Another daylong hartal was called in Ranpur on the same day, in protest of the Prime Minister’s visit for election campaigning.
Opposition leader Khaleda Zia had announced the December 29 March for Democracy programme from a press conference on December 24.
But the opposition could not stage any demonstration on the day as they were obstructed by the police and ruling party activists at different strategic points of the city. In addition, the Army and BGB troopers were put on duty.
The government’s measure virtually separated the city from the rest of the country.
A large contingent of law enforcers were deployed from Gabtali to Hemayetpur via Amin Bazar under Savar police station. Commuters, including serious patients, were not allowed to enter the capital’s western entry point Gabtali without a thorough police search. Each and every vehicle was searched at nine points. Those who failed to show their identity cards were not allowed to enter the capital.
Only a few old BRTC buses and minibuses were seen on the city roads every one or two hours. But rickshaws, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and battery-run three-wheelers were seen dominating the city streets.
A few buses, loaded with people, left the Gabtali Bus Terminal for Paturia every two or three hours, but no buses were allowed to enter the Gabtali Bus Terminal.
Some people were seen heading towards their destinations on rickshaws and vans, while others were seen walking from Gabtali to other places of the capital.
Leaders and workers of the Awami League and its front organisations brought out rallies at different points from Kallyanpur, Technical, Gabtali, Mazar Road, Amin Bazar and Hemayetpur points to resist BNP marchers. No long-distance passenger buses left the Gabtali Bus Terminal.
AL activists stopped several vehicles at Hemayetpur point and wanted to know the passengers’ identities. They also searched pedestrians.
There were more light transports at Jatrabari, compared with Sunday’s situation, though most of the buses and minibuses were not plying on the streets and no long-distance bus left the Saidabad Terminal.
Members of law enforcement agencies appeared to be relaxed as the opposition did not bring out any procession in important areas. However, they searched public transports and passengers at Jatrabari, Sanir Akhra, Signboard and Kanchpur areas.
AL activists brought out separate processions at Jatrabari and its surrounding areas.
Police and RAB personnel set up several check-posts at the entry point Abdullahpur-Tongi on Monday. A few buses were allowed to enter the city through the entry point.
Salauddin, inspector of Dakkinkhan Police Station, said, “The check-posts were set up to search people and vehicles, so that no one can carry out any subversive activity centring the opposition’s March for Democracy programme.”
In Gaibandha, supporters of the 18-Party Alliance vandalised at least 10 vehicles in separate attacks on the Rangpur-Dhaka highway during the sit-in progarmme. Police detained seven people in this connection.
In Chuadanga, the police obstructed a procession of oppossition supporters around 11am.
Our Bogra correspondent reports that 18-Party Alliance activists vandalised some trucks in several areas and burned a truck at Nischintapur area in the morning.
Some activists of the 18-Party Alliance brought out processions as part of its sit-in programme in Joypurhat, Kurigram and Sunamganj. In Chandpur, opposition activists set fire to a jeep of the Water Development Board at Ghosherhat area under Sadar upazila and vandalised 18 vehicles on the Chandpur-Comilla highway.
In Munshiganj, BNP activists vandalised five vehicles, including CNG-run auto rickshaws, near the Muktarpur bridge around 1:15pm. Besides, BNP supporters locked in a scuffle with the police at Ferighat area. The clash left five people, including upazila BNP president Mohammad Mohiuddin, injured.
In Gazipur, the Jatiyatabadi Anijibi Forum brought out a procession and held a rally, protesting against the attack on pro-BNP lawyers at the Supreme Court on Sunday. Pro-BNP lawyers brought out the procession around 1pm and paraded different streets.

-With The Independent input

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