Tension soars as Bangladesh gears up for Dhaka rally

Dhaka, Dec 28: Tension has been running high in Bangladesh as the main opposition alliance gears up for a showdown in the national capital, which has been cut off from many districts amid security concerns, media reported Saturday.

Most districts in the country were cut off from Dhaka as pro-Awami League transport associations stopped operating buses and launches, apparently to foil Sunday’s “Dhaka march” called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led opposition alliance, The Daily Star reported.

It said that a number of transporters have stopped operating buses and launches after law enforcers “advised” them to remain grounded.

Transport associations in Chittagong, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna divisions have called a two-day strike beginning Saturday to protest against the recent vandalism and arson attacks on buses by the opposition supporters.

“Buses are leavi”g Dhaka but they are not returning to the capital as the drivers and helpers fear for their security,” Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation, was quoted as saying.

Earlier, the government virtually halted traffic movement to and from the capital in efforts to thwart BNP’s March 12 Dhaka march rally.

A large contingent of police personnel were seen Friday in and around BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s residence and office, Xinhua reported.

“She has been under virtual house arrest since the announcement of the long march programme schedule,” BNP vice president Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury was quoted as saying.

Through a video message Khaleda Zia Friday evening urged her supporters to march towards Dhaka. “I urge all to converge in the capital city on Dec 29 to save democracy though I can’t join it.”

The former prime minister’s directive came hours after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) turned down the opposition request for permission for the rally at Nayapaltan in the capital.

“The opposition was denied permission on security grounds,” Masudur Rahman, DMP’s deputy commissioner-media, was quoted as saying by The Daily Star

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) party has vowed to resist the programme and asked its leaders and activists to remain alert to prevent any attempt to create anarchy in the city.

Khaleda’s 18-party opposition alliance seeks cancellation of the parliamentary polls slated for Jan 5 over Hasina’s refusal for non-party interim government to oversee the elections.

The opposition alliance enforced prolonged blockades after the Election Commission Nov 25 announced the schedule for the poll. Scores of people have been killed in wide spread violence since Nov 26.