Huge cordon planned to foil PMO siege |
10,000 cops, Rab, BDR to face 14-party programme; law enforcers asked to take tough action
Over 10,000 police, paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) personnel will encircle several square kilometre areas around the Prime Ministers' Office (PMO) today to thwart the Awami League (AL)-led 14-party combine's PMO siege programme.
They have been ordered to go for tough action against the demonstrators, if needed.
At an hour-long briefing at Rajarbagh Police Lines yesterday, the commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) asked the forces to show restraint as long as possible and go tough, if necessary. He instructed them not to pounce on women activists, senior leaders and journalists, sources said.
The opposition combine has meanwhile expressed firm determination to go on with its 11:00am to 1:00pm siege programme disregarding the government ban on all kinds of gatherings and rallies in areas around the PMO. If the government attempts to foil the 'peaceful' programme, it will have to take all responsibilities of any untoward incidents taking place, the opposition leaders warned.
Tougher programmes including hartals will follow if the law enforcers try to resist today's programme, they said.
"We will go on with our peaceful programme today defying the government's ban," AL Presidium Member Tofail Ahmed told newsmen after a meeting of the 14-party yesterday.
Leaders and activists of the combine will gather at four points --Bangla Motor, Russell Square, Mohakhali and Mirpur-10 roundabout--before marching towards the PMO at 11:00 am to press home the demand for electoral reforms.
On the other hand, the government taking a hard line on the opposition programme has directed the home ministry to take all steps to prevent opposition loyalists from gathering around the PMO. This has raised fears of violence between the law enforcers and opposition activists.
Directed by government high-ups, the DMP on Sunday banned all kinds of gatherings or demonstrations in areas surrounding the PMO for 24 hours from midnight today to midnight tomorrow.
Leader of the Opposition and AL President Sheikh Hasina had earlier announced the programmes of laying siege to the EC Secretariat on September 6 and the PMO today to force the BNP-Jamaat coalition government to implement reforms in caretaker government and the EC.
Police sources said plans have been chalked out to halt the opposition activists far from the PMO by putting up barbed-wire barricades and deploying over 10 thousand police, BDR, Armed Police Battalion and Rab personnel.
"We will take position and set up heavy barbed wire fences from tonight (last night) at all the points in the restricted areas to prevent the opposition's march towards PMO," a senior police official said.
The law enforcers will seal off different roads around the PMO from early this morning. These include the roads via Shahbagh Roundabout, Farmgate, Mohakhali Flyover, Moghbazar, Bangla Motors, Shyamoli, Asad Gate, Panthapath, and Russell Square, and Dhanmondi Road-27, Rokeya Sarani and Bijoy Sarani.
Meanwhile, police conducted a blanket-arrest drive for the last couple of days. The lockups at city police stations have been packed with opposition activists and also others arrested centring the PMO siege programme and the opposition grand rally in the capital on September 18.
The opposition combine has taken massive preparations to mobilise a large number of people from across the capital for today's programme. In the last couple of days, senior leaders of the combine and their front organisations held a series of preparatory meetings to make the programme a success.
A meeting held at the AL central office on Bangabandhu Avenue yesterday with AL central leader Tofail Ahmed in the chair decided to defy any restrictions imposed by the government.
Tofail said if the prime minister does not accept the demand for electoral reforms, they would announce the final round of their agitation from the September 18 grand rally. And indefinite hartals would be enforced if this government hands over power to caretaker government headed by Justice KM Hasan, he added.
AREAS UNDER BAN
The DMP press release said the areas, roads, lanes and by-lanes that have been put under the ban include Mohakhali crossing to Parjatan crossing via Shaheed Jahangir Gate and Public Service Commission (PSC) office, Bijoy Sarani to Urojahaj crossing, Agargaon crossing on Rokeya Sarani to Shishu Mela, Shisu Mela to Dhanmondi Road-27 (old) on Mirpur Road, Mohammadia Super Market and Tallabagh to Square Hospital on Panthapath via Sukrabad.
And from Square Hospital to Chalet Crossing, Free School Street and Bangla Motor crossing via Sundarban Hotel, Bangla Motor crossing to Moghbazar crossing and Moghbazar crossing to Tongi Diversion Road and Mohakhali crossing via Satrasta crossing and Nabisco crossing.
Opposition leaders, activists, loyalists and supporters will assemble at four points before marching towards the PMO at 11:00am. These are Bangla Motor, Russell Square, Mohakhali and Mirpur-10 roundabout. They will start coming to these points in processions from 10:00am.