Movement of motorised vehicles remained negligible on Dhaka streets, many educational institutions remained closed and some financial institutions were seen working behind closed doors at places in Dhaka during the dawn to dusk hartal called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Sunday.
The number of motorised vehicles on city roads increased at the second half of the day. All inter-district buses left Dhaka in due time.
The BNP on Saturday evening called the hartal protesting against the day’s farcical Dhaka city elections that witnessed low turnout, vote rigging, violence, muscle-flexing and forcibly making voters to vote for AL candidates, besides complications arising out of the use of electronic voting machines.
Most shops and shopping centres remained closed at places, including Naya Paltan, Purana Paltan, Matijheel and a few other areas of the city. At other places, the shopkeepers were late to open their business establishments.
The party secretary general MIrza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, addressing a press conference at the party central office at Naya Paltan in Dhaka towards the end of the hartal hours, thanked Dhaka city dwellers for observing the hartal spontaneously.
He announced demonstrations at every thana areas of the city protesting against massive rigging in the city elections and demanding scrapping of the election result, restoration of democracy and immediate and unconditional release of the party’s chairperson Khaleda Zia who was serving jail term in a graft case which BNP have been categorically terming false and fabricated.
The BNP leader said that the BNP’s defeated mayoral candidate for south, Ishraque Hossain, and for north, Tabith Awal, on the day will present before the media the evidences of rigging, intimidation and ousting of their agents from polling centres during February 1 city elections.
The BNP central office was cordoned off by the police during the hartal hours.
At around 6:30pm, a group of BNP leaders and activists led by its senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi burnt a symbolic Electronic Voting Machine made of cardboard. The party had been opposing the employment of such electronic device for a long time.
The number of leaders and activists rose as they started to gather at the central office and demonstrated until evening.
Ishraque, who was there among the leaders and activists, said that the city election results were a complete ‘fabrication’ and they did not reflect people’s opinion.
Terming the city elections as ‘election of vote thieving’, Tabith said that they never expected such an election.
Addressing the press conference at the party office, BNP secretary general alleged that the government instituted a ‘media coup’ by publishing election results as per their wish.
He said that the government had used EVM as a new weapon to snatch the people’s right to vote.
Mentioning the sudden halt during election result announcement after 7:30pm on Saturday, the BNP leader alleged that the EC took time to solve the math to prepare the election results and published it through ‘media manipulation’.
He said that the low turnout was the result of people’s loss of trust in voting under the AL government as well as under the current Election Commission.
Fakhrul said that the prime minister had said that the future elections would gradually be held using EVM and added that the prime minister dictated the EC on how to conduct voting.
‘There is no separation between the government, the election commission and the state organs at present. The country had turned into a fascist, totalitarian state,’ he alleged.
The pro-hartal activists brought out processions at places, including Baridhara, Banglamotor and Gulshan areas.
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