REF: Police were on a roll to detain leaders of the BNP on Wednesday night around the office and residence of the party’s chief Khaleda Zia in capital Dhaka.
Police presence around those two spots in Gulshan has been reinforced after she on Tuesday announced the ‘March for Democracy’, urging all to converge on Dhaka to thwart the Jan 5 parliamentary election.
Eighteen persons, including BNP acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir were accused in a case filed earlier on Wednesday over an act of arson in Dhaka’s Bangla Motor on Tuesday night in which a police constable was burned to death.
The strings of detentions apparently began in the evening after the deadly incident and Khaleda’s announcement, but police said some of the BNP leaders were released.
Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia had exchanged Christmas greetings with Christians around that time at a function at her office. Police swung into action before and after that programme.
Former MP Sarder Sakhawat Hossain Bokul was the one first whisked away from in front of her Gulshan residence by police.
As Bokul was about to enter the BNP chief’s house, police detained him after he got into an altercation with them. He was picked up and taken away in a vehicle as journalists looked on.
Police officers on duty there, however, declined comment on the incident.
Later at night, police took him to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital as he fell sick.
Narsinghdi BNP unit has called a general strike in the district for Thursday protesting against his detention.
Clearly miffed, Khaleda said, “No leaders are allowed to enter my office. Leaders are being arrested from the gate. The situation is same at my house too.
“This is democracy!” she quipped.
Khaleda had entered her office around 7:30pm. After exchanging greetings, followed by a meeting with leaders of pro-BNP professionals, she left around midnight. The rest of the BNP leaders were detained in between.
The main opposition, however, has claimed that MP Shammi Akter, Chairperson’s Advisor Abdul Awal Mintoo’s son Tabith Awal, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal leader Anisul Islam Obhi and Bikalpadhara Bangladesh Secretary General Abdul Mannan were also detained from the Gulshan office.
Demanding their release, acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir in a statement said, “This autocratic government would not survive even after attempts to repress the Opposition through torture and arrest.”
Earlier this year, police had raided the BNP’s Naya Paltan headquarters and arrested over 150 leaders and activists including Fakhrul. Recently in another raid, Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi was arrested.
But, police officials on duty at Khaleda’s office were seen putting oldest member of the party’s Standing Committee, RA Gani, in one of their vehicles around 8:10pm when he was entering it. But he was released later.
DMP’s Gulshan zone Assistant Commissioner Nurul Amin told bdnews24.com that they only ‘escorted’ Gani to his home.
“We did not even arrest him, how can we release him? He wanted to enter the [BNP chief’s] office, but we escorted him to his house from there,” he claimed.
Shammi Akter and Tabith Awall were picked up around 9:15pm when they were leaving Khaleda’s office.
But DMP Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman told bdnews24.com: “We did not arrest her.”
Tabith’s father Mintoo and Khaleda’s Special Assistant Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas were also arrested in front of her house a month before.
They were later shown to have been ‘arrested’ in connection with an act of sabotage during one of the nationwide blockades enforced by the party.
However, police tried to detain senior journalist Shafik Rehman amid the crackdown on the BNP leaders, but they apparently changed their mind.
They tried to take him away in one of their cars around 9:45pm when he was leaving the BNP chief’s office after the Christmas function.
Bangladesh Bar Council Vice-Chairman Khandaker Mahbub Hossain was also leaving at the time. Police were seen putting Rehman in his vehicle.
Addressing Rehman, one of the policemen said, “Please go sir, greetings of red roses to you.”
Several top BNP leaders are also in jail after being arrested amid their election boycott and street agitation for the formation of a non-party government to oversee the polls.
Among the top BNP leaders are Moudud Ahmed, MK Anwar, ASM Hannan Shah, Rafiqul Islam Mia, Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Rizvi, Shimul Biswas, Mintoo, Mir Mohammad Nasir Uddin and Golam Akbar Khandaker.