Blockade to continue: Khaleda: Police lift siege of her Gulshan office, transport arson leaves two more injured

A bus and a truck go up in flames on a road at Fatullah in Narayanganj on Monday as the countrywide blockage enforced by the BNP-led alliance goes on. — Focusbangla photo

Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia on Monday iterated that the ongoing countrywide ‘peaceful’ blockade would continue until further announcement and an atmosphere was created to ‘return the people’s voting rights’. She also pledged to take initiatives for a political solution to the present crisis. The blockade enforced by her alliance continued for the 14th straight day on Monday marked by vandalism and arson on transports that left two more passengers injured. Besides, a Jamaat-backed ward councillor from Narail was killed in a ‘gunfight’ with detectives at Motijheel early Monday. Khaleda made the statement at a hurriedly called news conference at her Gulshan office in the evening hours after police withdrew the siege of her office. Police and barricades from in front of her office and surroundings were withdrawn early Monday. About the withdrawal of the police siege, she in her written speech said she would have welcomed it if the government had not lifted the barricade at dead of night without notice. Asked on what condition she would withdraw the blockade, Khaleda said she and her party had already stated that they wanted an inclusive election and people’s voting rights. An environment would have to be created so that people could get back their voting rights, she added. When the media asked her if she was ready to lift the blockade if the government permitted her to hold a rally, Khaleda said her party had no other plans at the moment but to continue the blockade. ‘Now that the police siege of your office has been withdrawn, what will be your next steps?’ In reply Khaleda said, ‘This [Gulshan office] is my office and I have jobs to do here.’ She said she would believe that the siege of her office has really been withdrawn when she would be able to move freely and go anywhere she wished. The BNP chairperson also dismissed the notion that journalists had influenced her announcing the blockade. She said it was the government, not the journalists, which had forced her alliance to call the blockade. When a reporter wanted to know who would take the responsibility for the senseless acts of arson and killings during the blockade, Khaleda claimed that BNP men were not carrying out such attacks, rather, she said, Awami League was in the habit of doing such things. She said the ruling party had chosen the path of ‘sabotage’ to create ‘confusion’ at home and abroad about her alliance’s ‘peaceful’ movement. Khaleda protested at the killings and burning of people by throwing petrol bombs at transports carrying women and children and students ‘under police protection’. She said Awami League in the past too had burnt people to death by torching passenger buses and killed people by throwing bombs and by ‘oars and sticks’. She said she had ‘no doubt’ that this time too, the Awami League was carrying out such brutal attacks ‘in a planned way’. Khaleda said that instead of arresting the bombers on the spot, the government was detaining leaders and activists of the opposition and raiding their houses. She accused the government of unleashing a reign of terror in different localities in the name of operation by the joint forces. ‘The people who are involved in such killings and bombings would be brought to book in future,’ she said. The BNP chairperson urged the law enforcement forces to ‘go by law’ and carry out their duties ‘with a neutral attitude’. She said the present crisis was not merely a problem of law and order but it was a political crisis. She said BNP had repeatedly called for discussion for holding an acceptable and participatory election and placed a seven-point demand to provide a basis for discussion. But, she said the Awami League had instantly rejected the proposals and chosen the path of oppression using the ‘language of weapons’. Before the news conference, the BNP chairperson held an urgent meeting with her party’s standing committee members. During blockade on Monday, a mother and her two-year old son suffered burns in an arson attack on a bus at Chashara in Narayanganj. The victims were identified as Shammi Sarmin Siddique, 32, and her son Shafiq. They were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Suspected blockaders torched the bus of Bandhan Paribahan at dead of night. Ten more people suffered injuries while jumping out of the bus, said the police. In Rangpur, a local leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, was shot and wounded during a police raid at Islampur in Mithapukur upazila early Monday. He was identified as Bulbul Ahmed Mintu, 35, secretary of Islampur unit Jamaat-e-Islami. He was wanted by the police in an arson case. Rabiul Alam, officer-in-charge of Mithapukur police station, said the police had raided the village in search of arsonists and arrested Mintu, an accused in a case of arson attack. At one point, Mintu’s cohorts attacked the police in a bid to snatch him from the custody prompting the police to open fire, which left the Jamaat man injured, he said. Mintu was admitted to Rangpur Medical College Hospital in police custody. In the capital, a Jamaat-backed ward councillor from Narail was killed in a ‘gunfight’ with detectives at Motijheel early Monday. Police said that the Jamaat leader, Imrul Kayes, 35, had plotted an attack on the police. Police also claimed to have seized arms, ammunition and crude bombs during the gunfight. With the latest killing, death toll from violence all over the country reached 29 since BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia announced the nonstop blockade on January 5 after the government had refused to allow her party and allies to hold protest rallies in the capital. Another suspected arsonist, Nur Mohammad, 25, was shot in the knee by police after he hurled crude bombs at a bus at Shahbagh intersection on Monday night. In the capital, miscreants torched five vehicles and three in other districts. None was reported injured in the arson attacks. In Dhaka, a Janata Bank staff bus was set on fire in front of Madhumati cinema at Motijheel around 1:25pm, fire service said. Detectives raided the Adabor house of BNP joint-secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi on Sunday night. Rizvi, however, was not present. After conducting search in another flat of the building, they picked up three people – government employee Mustafizur Rahman, his grandson Marjan and security guard Saidur Rahman. Former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mostafa was detained by RAB-1 from his Gulshan residence early Monday in connection with a bomb blast case filed with Gulshan police station. Long-route buses operated in lesser numbers in the day time while some others left terminals in Dhaka at night, transport operators said. Hundreds of passengers waited for hours for trains at Kamalapur railway station due to railway’s schedule collapse. Miscreants set a bus ablaze in Kuliarchar upazila of Kishoreganj just after midnight while two trucks and a bus were torched in Muljan upazila of Manikganj and Maizdar area of Narayanganj. Our Chapainawabganj correspondent reported that  police and RAB in overnight drives arrested 25 BNP-Jamaat men in different upazilas. The BNP-led alliance called a 36-hour hartal in Chittagong from this morning. Hartal was also called in Rajshahi, Rangpur and Madaripur. Ten people were injured in clashes between the activists of Awami League and BNP at Kandipara in Comilla city on the day. At least 15 vehicles were  vandalised during the fighting. Over a hundred vehicles were also reportedly vandalised and torched in Bogra, Feni, Jessore and other districts. Police arrested over a hundred people in Jessore, Khulna, Chittagong, Gaibandha, Bhola, Sylhet, Satkhira, Jhalakati, Rangpur and Lakshmipur districts.

Source: New Age