Vol. 4 Num 318 Wed. April 21, 2004  
Front Page

AL hems in Hawa Bhaban today
High security alert; JCD cancels Sudha Sadan siege

The last 10 days in the countdown to an opposition-set deadline for the government's fall begins today with Awami League's front organisations laying siege to Hawa Bhaban and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) marching towards the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in the city amid heavy security arrangements by the government.

Though the tension, brewed over the last one week centring siege and counter-siege programmes by the opposition and the ruling BNP, subdued to a large extent at the last-minute cancellation of programmes by the BNP and its student wing, police continued its arrest-spree ahead of today's opposition showdown.

Since Monday night, police has picked up nearly 2,000 people from different entry points to the city, mostly from bus, launch and train stations, suspecting that the opposition might have been assembling people with arms and explosives from outside the capital for subversive activities today. Several staff including a deputy director of Proshika, an NGO, were also picked up yesterday on suspicion of their possible involvement with the Awami League's (AL's) siege programme, the officer-in-charge of Pallabi Police Station said.

In line with the AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil's much-talked-about April-30 deadline for the government's fall, the main opposition party would announce the last phase of its oust-government programmes after today's Hawa Bhaban siege. Programmes like 'Secretariat siege', 'PMO siege' and 'Dhaka siege' are on the cards, AL sources said.

As per the plan, leaders, workers and supporters of AL's front organisations including Chhatra League, Jubo League, Krishak League, Sramik League, Mohila League and Jubo Mohila League would assemble at AL headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue at 3pm and start marching towards Hawa Bhaban in Banani. Leaders and workers from other parts of the city are also likely to join the main stream coming from Mohakhali and Badda areas.

JSD (Inu) leaders and workers would converge at 2pm near the Bangabandhu Avenue party office, before taking out a procession to the Prime Minister's Office in Tejgaon.

In retaliation to AL's plan of besieging Hawa Bhavan, an alleged centre of unbridled corruption, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) had earlier announced to lay siege to Sudha Sadan, residence of opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. And the city unit of BNP announced to hold a rally at Gulshan and take out processions from every thana in the capital.

In a last-moment decision, the JCD declared at a press conference at Dhaka University yesterday afternoon that upon a prime ministerial directive it rescinded the counter-siege programme of Sudha Sadan. Khaleda Zia's Political Secretary Harris Chowdhury called the JCD leaders to the PMO to convey the message that some senior ministers had advised the prime minister not to allow such a programme. A similar directive was given to Dhaka City unit of BNP resulting in cancellation of its scheduled public meeting at Gulshan today.

Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina's Political Secretary Saber Hossain Chowdhury last night alleged that police took some buses boarded by women activists of his party from different city areas to Khilgaon, Gulshan, Demra and Ramna police stations, without showing any reasons. The women were returning from a rally held at Central Shahid Minar yesterday afternoon, said Saber, observing that sometimes it became very difficult for people to distinguish between arms-carrying plainclothesmen and criminals and abductors. Saber said the women arrested at Khilgaon Police Station were denied access to legal counsel and even toilet facilities.

Concerned police stations acknowledged to The Daily Star last night that, on suspicion, police arrested 25 women in Khilgaon, 24 in Demra, 25 in Gulshan and 94 in Ramna.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 law enforcers including police, both in uniform and in plain clothes, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), BDR and Riot Police would be deployed at strategic city points to check any lawbreaking. Police sources said forces would be posted at a minimum of 100 points while barbed wire barricades would be raised at Mohakhali, Kakoli, Banani, Gulshan, Baridhara, Bangla Motors, Bishwa Road and several other points.

A press note issued by the home ministry yesterday said no disturbing activities centring the political programmes would be allowed today and that police had been asked to take all precautionary measures in this regard.

It said the government wanted to make it clear that in the name of a political programme no party, organisation or individual would be allowed to create indiscipline or anarchy.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Ashraful Huda last night told The Daily Star the law enforcing personnel would take whatever courses they would feel necessary to protect people's lives and properties. No rowdy activities would be allowed, he asserted.

The Hawa Bhaban, dubbed as the alternative power centre within the government, has been at the centre of controversy since the BNP and its allies came to power, with widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of the government power levelled against the office of the BNP chairperson.

This is for the first time ever that an opposition party has declared to lay siege to another political party's office.

The AL Central Working Committee with party chief and Opposition Leader Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Thursday night asked the party's front organisations to lay siege to Hawa Bhaban today, demanding shutdown of what it said was 'the seat of unbridled corruption'.

The arrestees, held in Monday night's police crackdown ahead of today's Hawa Bhaban siege programme by Awami League, board a cop van en route to court yesterday. The picture was taken at Motijheel Police Station. PHOTO: STAR