Opposition to defy rally ban

Khaleda to attend pro-BNP professionals’ convention today; rallies, processions at district HQs to protest ban

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Defying the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s ban on all political gatherings, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia will attend a pro-BNP professionals’ convention in the capital today, said sources in the BNP.
The decision came hours after the DMP slapped an indefinite ban on political meetings, rallies, human chains, demonstrations, sit-ins and processions in the capital from 6:00am today.
Khaleda will speak as the chief guest at the convention, organised by Bangladesh Sammilito Peshajibi Parishad, a pro-BNP platform of professionals. The programme is scheduled to begin at 2:00pm at Bangabandhu International Convention Centre.
The main opposition party will also stage demonstrations and hold rallies at all district headquarters today to protest the ban. It made an announcement to that effect from its standing committee meeting last night.
Asked if the Peshajibi Parishad would be allowed to hold the convention, a top DMP official replied in the negative.
The opposition might go for tougher programmes like shutdowns if police obstruct the convention or bar Khaleda from attending it, said the BNP sources.
Defending the decision to impose the ban, the DMP said several rival political parties made provocative public statements, posing security threats ahead of their announced meetings and rallies in the capital from October 20.
“Judging from the current situation, it is evident that activities and programmes such as rallies, meetings and processions might lead to subversive activities and confrontation, which will adversely affect law and order in the capital,” DMP Commissioner Benazir Ahmed said in a press release.
The ban came five days ahead of an announced rally by the BNP-led alliance that was planning to announce a series of agitation programmes from the rally to press the demand for a non-party election-time government.
In order to counter the opposition rally, Dhaka city unit of the ruling Awami League also announced holding a rally in the capital the same day.
The main opposition party slammed the DMP’s ban and urged the government to withdraw the restriction immediately.
“The ban is nothing but part of the government’s conspiracy to hold the election without the BNP-led alliance,” acting BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters after the meeting of BNP standing committee.
It was a complete violation of the country’s constitution and democratic norms, he said.
The BNP leader said like his party, the whole nation was surprised and agitated at the hasty decision by the DMP.
The law that allowed the DMP to slap the ban is not superior to the country’s constitution, which guarantees the freedom of speech and assembly, he said.
Earlier, speaking at a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club, Fakhrul alleged that the government used the police to slap the ban and took away people’s democratic rights by imposing the restriction.
“Take lessons from history. We will give a befitting reply to the restrictions through our movement,” said Fakhrul.
Opposition leaders, civil society members and even some AL leaders expressed surprise and annoyance at the ban that was imposed a day after the prime minister proposed forming an all-party polls-time government.
They said the ban might further worsen the current political stalemate.
Interestingly, the ban coincided with a BNP delegation’s visit to the DMP headquarters to enquire about the fate of its application for permission to hold the October 25 rally either at Nayapaltan, or Paltan Maidan or Suhrawardy Udyan.
“This is a clear violation of all democratic norms,” Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque told The Daily Star over the phone.
The DMP officials told the BNP delegation that they would convey their decision after consulting with high officials.
“As we left the DMP office, we learnt that the DMP had banned all sorts of demonstrations,” said Farroque.
DMP Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman told The Daily Star that whoever defies the ban would face lawsuits.
“We will step up security measures, depending on the situation,” he said.
The ban indicates that the government has finally toughened its stance.
Sources in the police said they might launch a crackdown on opposition leaders and activists if they try to stage anti-government agitation defying the ban.
A similar ban may be imposed in other divisional headquarters to prevent opposition parties from staging anti-government demonstrations, said the sources.
In Chittagong city, local BNP leaders have threatened to stage anti-government demonstrations on October 25.
On the other hand, local AL leaders and activists plan to hold rallies and bring out processions to counter them, reports our Chittagong correspondent.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shafiqul Islam said they would take necessary steps in due course.
Meanwhile, SM Rokon Uddin, additional commissioner of Sylhet Metropolitan Police, told The Daily Star that they had been closely monitoring the political situation, as both AL and BNP were preparing to take to the streets.
The police would take steps when necessary, he told our Sylhet Correspondent.
MIXED REACTION IN AL
The DMP ban has generated mixed reaction in the ruling AL.
Talking to The Daily Star, some ministers, lawmakers and AL leaders said they support the ban on political meetings and rallies following the BNP’s threat to take to the streets.
A few others, however, said the ban could have been imposed one or two days later.
It was not right to impose the ban just a day after the prime minister’s address to the nation offered a ray of hope, said an AL leader, preferring anonymity.
But Civil Aviation Minister Faruk Khan defended the ban and said it is the responsibility of the government and the police to protect the life and property of people.
The minister said the government took Sadeque Hossain Khoka’s threat seriously, as he is a top BNP leader.
“In the past, we saw how the opposition had caused deterioration in law and order, and loss of life and property,” said Faruk, hinting at Hefajat-e Islam’s May 5 programme in the capital.
AL lawmaker Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury also supported the ban.

Source: The Daily Star

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