Khaleda declares non-stop blockade

MH Maswood and Rashed Ahmed Mitul

Besieged BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia on Monday announced indefinite blockade all over the country for holding back BNP-led alliance’s planned ‘Democracy Killing Day’ public rally on Monday.
‘The blockade will continue until further instruction,’ she said, standing on her jeep in the compound of her Gulshan office, heavily guarded by riot police, in the afternoon.
Khaleda said the rally, that had been barred, would be held afterwards.
Clarifying on the call for blockade, BNP joint general secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, who is undergoing treatment at a city hospital under police custody, told New Age over phone that ‘an indefinite road-rail-waterway blockade’ is to be added with Khaleda’s announcement.
Awami League presidium member Obaidul Quader in a press conference Monday evening announced that their party activists would take to the streets across the country from today to protect the lives and property of people and to resist the BNP if they tried to unleash any violence.
He urged the people to reject BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s blockade programme.
The ruling party has also formed 16 teams, comprising of central leaders and local lawmakers, to resist BNP’s blockade programme in the capital.
Khaleda, who has been confined in her office since Saturday night, asked why she was besieged and why she was not allowed to move out to address the ‘peaceful’ rally, although the government was claiming she was not confined and she can move freely whenever she wanted.
‘This government is weak and cowardly. This government cannot stay for long by shedding blood,’ she told a gathering of press people.
She said her alliance was carrying out the movement for an inclusive early election.
Earlier, police lobbed several rounds of ‘pepper spray’ inside the cordoned off BNP office as BNP women activists, led by Asifa Ashrafee Papiya, tried to break open the gate around 4pm.
Khaleda stepped down from the first floor of her office at around 3:45pm and sat inside the car for half an hour before addressing the press, amid chaos.
The BNP chief, who was coughing due to the pepper spray, said they wanted to hold a peaceful rally on the ‘democracy killing day’ and people spontaneously wanted to come out to the street. But the police, along with goons of Chhatra League and Juba League, attacked on rallies of the 20-party led alliance in different parts of the country.
‘Stop fire and tear gas,’ she asked the government. ‘Why shouldn’t we hold our rallies when the government party was bringing out rallies and processions,’ she said.
Khaleda said the illegal government has isolated the country only to stay in power. ‘Afraid of holding their own rally they banned our rally,’ she said.
Calling the January 5 general election ‘farce’ she reiterated the people did not cast their votes. ‘There is no governance and rule of law in the country.’
‘This is a repressive government. The entire country has been made a prison. There is no security of the people. This situation cannot go on long,’ she said.
As Khaleda was making her statement, BNP activists there informed her that police had started using tear gas again. Drawing attention of the police, she said they have no conflict with police but law enforcers of ‘a district’ and Chhatra League goons were carrying out excesses. She also said ‘agents’ have ‘entered’ (the police) and were doing excesses.
Khaleda, holding a miniature black flag, said she had been repeatedly demanding a fresh election with participation of all since the present government was not elected by the people.
Pointing to the scene around her Gulshan office she said it looks like a war-like situation is prevailing, as water cannon cars and sand-laden trucks were kept around the office.
‘This has become a police state. But bullets and tear gas cannot suppress the movement,’ Khaleda said, adding ‘people want change…’
She said she heard that the transmission of ETV had been shut as the private channel was telecasting her programme. ‘This is a fascist government. The government has been isolated from the people. There is no soil beneath their feet and they are trying to hang on to power by tear gas and attacks.’
The BNP chief reminded that no dictator could stay in power and had to face ugly consequences.
After her brief address, Khaleda entered the office again.
The newsmen came out of the office using a ladder and jumping over the wall of the rear side of the office as the gate remained under police control.

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