A day after the police raid on the BNP headquarters and blanket arrests of opposition leaders, the ruling Awami League quickly moved to calm the situation by releasing three senior BNP leaders yesterday.
The raid and arrest of more than 150 BNP leaders, including the BNP acting secretary general, drew flak within the AL.
But good sense finally prevailed, as the government released three BNP leaders yesterday without framing any charges against them, said sources in the ruling party.
AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, also special assistant to the prime minister, said the AL did not support the police raid on the political party’s office and the arrest of senior leaders.
BNP leaders Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Sadeque Hossain Khoka and Altaf Hossain Chowdhury were freed just an hour-and-a-half after Hanif told the media around 11:00am that the top BNP leaders would be released soon.
However, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, as on the previous day, defended the police action and raid on the BNP headquarters.
Hanif told reporters, “Though the BNP did it [raid on opposition party office] with the Awami League when it was in power, we don’t support the arrest of senior leaders by raiding a political party office.”
He said his party would have been happy if the law enforcers had not arrested the top leaders.
Talking to The Daily Star, Hanif said it seemed that police committed excesses in raiding the BNP headquarters.
Things were against the BNP after it blasted bombs and called hartal. But it all changed with the arrest of the top BNP leaders in the police raid on the party’s headquarters, said the AL leader.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury explained the government’s position, and said the police had done their job according to the law, while the government did what it should have done.
“As a political party, we have shown modest behaviour towards another political party [BNP] by releasing the top leaders,” said Matia, who is also a member of the AL presidium.
Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said, “We are going through a turbulent time. Both the government and the opposition should be sensible in both speech and action.”
All decisions have to be made judiciously at this crucial point of time, he said.
Wishing anonymity, another AL leader said the government had released the top leaders, realising that it was not right to detain them in such a way. It thought if the leaders were freed, the main opposition party might cancel its plan to enforce a 48-hour hartal.
A policymaker of the ruling party said it was a wrong decision to detain the top BNP leaders.
“If police did not arrest them, there would be no negative reaction,” the AL leader said, asking not to be named.
He said there could have been miscommunication at the government’s top levels over the arrest of the opposition leaders.
Jubo League Chairman Omar Faroque Chowdhury said, “Since police recovered bombs and ammunition from the BNP office, it was obvious that they would arrest everyone present there.”
“The top leaders were released later, as their involvement in it was not found,” he said.
Preferring anonymity, a lawmaker from a Dhaka constituency said the government must make all decisions in consultation with the party, as there were political dimensions to all its decisions.
Justifying Monday’s police action at the BNP Nayapaltan office, the home minister said law enforcers had every right to enter a place where bombs were stockpiled.
On the wholesale arrest of BNP leaders and activists from the party’s central office, he told reporters that the arrests were made under existing laws and action would also be taken in line with the law.
Referring to the BNP’s threat to call a hartal for March 18 and 19 unless the detained leaders were released by Thursday, the minister said they (the opposition) would not be able to get their detained activists released by issuing threats or ultimatum.
‘CRIMINALS, NOT ACTIVISTS’
Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC, the home minister said Monday’s incident was telecast live on different televisions and it was seen that the BNP men threw bombs at police and the people. Police then raided the BNP headquarters recovering 12 bombs.
The TV footage proved that they are not political activists; they are criminals, he said and added that the police had jurisdiction to take steps against them, treating them as criminals, militants and terrorists.