Vol. 5 Num 256 Mon. February 14, 2005  
Front Page

Ruling, opposition parties face off
Over 10,000 law-enforcers to man streets as 36-hr hartal begins today

The government will form a massive security blanket in the capital during today's hartal with the ruling and opposition parties ready to face each other in the street.

More than 10,000 law-enforcers drawn from the police, paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles, Armed Police Battalion and Ansar will be deployed at different strategic points in the city to stave off any untoward incident.

The four-party ruling alliance has taken the fresh bout of 36-hour countrywide hartal as a challenge, aiming to defuse the antigovernment movement spearheaded by the main opposition Awami League (AL) and its left allies.

The latest heat generated in the country's politics when the opposition called for the shutdown coinciding with BNP's scheduled rallies across the country today. The ruling party blamed the opposition for creating 'anarchy' in the name of hartal.

BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan on Saturday asked the opposition to withdraw the hartal and warned that the opposition would be responsible for any untoward incident, if occurred on the hartal day.

But the AL and its allies, who intensified the movement after the killing of former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria in a grenade attack in Habiganj on January 27, have vowed to make the hartal a success.

To face street agitation, the home ministry has asked the police to go for prompt action against the demonstrators and foil any attempt to hold rallies or procession.

Usually 5,000 to 7,000 law-enforcers are deployed in the capital during hartal but the ministry has decided to strengthen the force by bringing additional forces from different districts.

"We have taken every measures to tackle any unwanted incident in the city," Mizanur Rahman, commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) told The Daily Star.

The government will try to keep some markets open under police protection during the shutdown. The DMP commissioner said if anybody appeals for police help to open their shops or to run vehicles, they will help them.

Speaking in the Jatiya Sangsad yesterday, Law Minister Moudud Ahmed asked the home ministry to apply existing laws against the troublemakers during hartal.

The AL alleged that police have started a crackdown on the opposition men. During the last three days more than 3,000 leaders and activists of the AL and its front organisations were arrested in the capital and elsewhere, the AL alleged.

AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil said police were arresting their leaders and activists from different parts of the country without any warrant. He demanded immediate and unconditional release of the arrestees.

Amid the heightened tension, most passenger buses went off the streets in the capital by yesterday afternoon fearing pre-hartal violence.

A large number of people were seen waiting at different bus stoppages for hours and jostling each other to get into the buses in operation.

Meanwhile, three people were injured when two unidentified youths set fire to a Bangladesh Bank staff bus at Arambagh in the city yesterday noon.

The youths poured petrol on the bus and ran away setting it on fire at around 2:30pm when Jahangir, the driver of the bus, Selim, helper, and Azibar, uncle of the driver, were sleeping inside the vehicle.

The three were rushed to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital with burn injuries. Azibar was admitted to the hospital while the two others were released after first aid.

Our staff correspondent from Rajshahi reports: Nearly 700 policemen were sent to Dhaka from 16 districts of Rajshahi division yesterday. They will be deployed in the capital during the 36-hour hartal.

A UNB report says today's hartal has been withdrawn in Shariatpur and Bandarban.

Shariatpur district AL withdrew hartal in Sadar upazila to show respect to Yakub Ali Howlader, local pourasava chairman and freedom fighter, who died on Saturday.

Yakub, 55, who was also district BNP president, died of brain haemorrhage in Dhaka.

Bandarban district AL withdrew today's hartal to facilitate the holding of a religious function. International Krishna Bhabnamrita Sangha has organised the congregation of Acharyas, who will seek divine blessings for world peace.

A minibus set ablaze in the city's Arambagh yesterday by alleged supporters of the 36-hour hartal called by opposition parties from today. PHOTO: STAR