Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists clashed with police and ruling Awami League activists in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country, leaving scores injured prior to and after delivery of the verdict in a graft case against BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and five others.
Dhaka remained almost cut off from rest of the country due to restrictive measures by government agencies.
Police also continued arrest as around 1,000 BNP leaders and activists were arrested in Dhaka and other districts on Thursday, according to sources in police and BNP.
Commuters suffered a lot as there were few public transports on capital’s roads and a huge number of people were seen waiting at different bus stoppages and office goers were found walking their destinations. Almost no long route buses reached Dhaka on the day.
Many roads remained almost empty in the capital while police did not allow hawkers to open their footpath shops.
Amid a tense situation, many schools in the city remained closed for the day. People at different city areas said they did not go out fearing untoward incidents.
Patrol of law enforcing agencies and huge presence of police on roads and checking at different city points were seen as part of unprecedented security measures ahead of the verdict.
A special court sentenced Khaleda Zia to five years’ imprisonment and five others, including her son and BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman, to ten years imprisonment each in the much-talked-about Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The government had tightened security across the country ahead of the verdict arresting several thousand BNP leaders and activists and banning any gathering and procession in Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna for Thursday.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his secretariat office told reporters that the law and order situation in the capital was normal. ‘Police would take legal action if anyone tries to create anarchy.’
Khaleda, who left her Gulshan residence around 11:45am amid tight security, reached Moghbazar around 12:20pm when hundreds of leaders and activists from surrounding areas escorted Khaleda’s motorcade breaching police barricade.
As police tried to restrict BNP leaders and activists near Holy Family Hospital from marching with Khaleda’s motorcade, they were locked in a clash with police who fired tear shells to disperse the activists while the activists threw brick bats.
As leaders and activists escorted Khaleda’s motorcade and reached Kakrail, more leaders and activists from surrounding areas joined and as police again intercepted them from heading towards Bakshibazar temporary court, they again clashed with the police.
Witnesses said at least two cocktails were exploded in the area while the protesters set fire to two motorcycles and vandalised nearby police box. They threw brick bats and sticks towards police.
Police also fired several tear shells to disperse the protesters where two policemen as well as several protesters were injured, they said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner (logistic) Md Humayun Kabir said they fired tear shells to disperse those who came to terrorise the area.
Later, the party activists, defying police barricade, escorted Khaleda’s motorcade up to Chankharpul where police finally intercepted the BNP leaders and activists who immediately sat on the spot around 1:40pm and began chanting slogans.
But, in minutes, they became agitated and soon a clash erupted between police and BNP activists.
Police fired teargas shells to disperse the activists who also pelted the law enforcers with brickbats. The activists fled from the spot leaving dozens of shoes and sandals there.
Panic gripped the area as BNP protesters entered nearby places and police raided the areas to catch BNP leaders and activists.
Police arrested seven BNP activists – Akash, Kamruzzaman, Nayeem, Naim, Raihan, aged between 22 and 25 and Popy, 35, from the spot.
Dhaka metropolitan magistrate courts received 179 accused on Thursday and, of them, about 100 were accused in political cases, said official sources in Dhaka court.
BNP secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a press conference at his party’s Naya Paltan central office said that about 1,000 leaders and activists including party chairperson’s personal assistant Shimul Biswas and Chittagong city BNP president Shahadot Hossain were arrested on Thursday.
BNP leaders said Shimul Biswas was arrested from Bakshibazar Court area and Chhatra Dal central president Rajib Ahsan from BNP central office area.
Pro-BNP lawyers who tried to sit in front of Mazar Gate of High Court to greet Khaleda were manhandled by on-duty police around 10:00am, witnesses said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia while visiting the law and order situation at Naya Paltan told reporters that those who breached law would face legal action. ‘Police will take stern action against them.’
Few public buses, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and private cars were on the streets.
Transport operators in city’s Gabtoli, Mohakhali and Sayedabad inter-district bus terminals said
almost no long route buses to Dhaka since Wednesday night.
Mohakhali Bus Terminal Owners Association president Abul Kalam said that they were starting buses late as the number of long route passengers was very few since Thursday morning.
Law enforcers were seen to check almost all short-distance buses entering the capital at Aminbazar and Abdullahpur areas.
Kamalapur railway station master Nipendra Nath Saha said that members of BGB, GRP and RNB took position in the station while RAB members were also visiting the station time to time.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority Sadarghat office staff said that since Wednesday morning members of river police took position at the river terminal.
New Age staff correspondent in Sylhet reported that at least 15 people, including a cop, were injured in clashes between Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal and Bangladesh Chhatra League at Bandarbazar, Court Point, Kadamtali, and Zindabazar areas in Sylhet city Thursday afternoon as the JCD men brought out processions protesting Khaleda’s sentence.
Of the injured, 2 BCL activists sustained bullet injuries at the Court Point when police fired pellets, BCL activists claimed.
JCD activists also vandalised several vehicles, including a city corporation’s truck.
Police said they arrested 72 people from the city and elsewhere in the district in 24 hours ending Thursday evening.
Our Correspondent in Lakshmipur reported that at least 10 people including three journalists and seven BNP activists were injured as a BNP procession was attacked by BCL and Juba League activists who brought out another procession at Godown Road in the district town.
New Age Correspondent in Feni reported that 10 people, including three cops, were injured as police attacked a BNP procession near Pourabazar. Police arrested three BNP activists from the spot.
Our Correspondent in Chittagong reported that at least 25 people, including 10 cops, were injured in clashes between police and BNP activists near BNP office at Nur Ahmad Road in the port city in the afternoon.
Police arrested 19 people including Chittagong city BNP president Shahadat Hossain from the area.
Chittagong additional superintendent of police Rezaul Masud said they arrested 148 people in 24 hours until Thursday morning.
New Age correspondents reported that police arrested 10 BNP activists each in Jessore and Khulna and 62 BNP-Jamaat activists in Brahmanbaria during the time.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Politics