AL men hold sway in ‘govt blockade’

Staff Correspondent

The second day of an ‘undeclared blockade’ of the capital Dhaka by the government and the ruling party passed off on Monday with activists of Awami League continuing to guard the entry points and intersections of the city to resist possible attempts by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies to march into Dhaka.
The capital remained cut off from the rest of the country as hardly any long-route buses, launches or trains entered or left the city. Ruling party activists, who set up makeshift stages at different entry points of the city, including Gabtoli, Jatrabari and Kamalapur, mounted guard on the streets, carrying sticks, in the heavy presence of law enforcement personnel.
BNP’s Naya Paltan office remained cordoned off for the second day from all sides, while law enforcers took up positions in the lanes leading to the office and searched every single person passing through.
On the Supreme Court premises, pro-BNP lawyers led by Supreme Court Bar Association president AJ Mohammad Ali attempted to march out of the premises around 11:45am but were once again held back at the entrance which remained locked and under heavy police guard.
The pro-BNP lawyers were twice confronted by ruling party activists marching down the road in front. Activists of Juba Mahila League and Muktijoddha Prajanma League brandishing sticks threw stones and sandals at the lawyers staging protests inside. The pro-BNP lawyers responded by hurling the stones back before retreating into the premises.
Later, a procession of AL-backed lawyers led by advocate Abdul Baset Majumder brought out a procession on the court premises around noon.
A large number of Awami League activists continued their presence in front of the party office on Bangabandhu Avenue, holding meetings and bring out processions. Activists of ‘Awami League Samarthak Jote’ led by AL leaders Hasan Mahmud and Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya marched down Bangabandhu Avenue and circled the Zero Point before returning to the AL office. The leaders later spoke at a rally in front of the office.
At a briefing at 11:00am, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commission Benazir Ahmed denied ruling party activists were carrying sticks in their processions and other programmes in the city, claiming that they were carrying only flags.
Benazir further defended the police inaction during the events on the Supreme Court premises and National Press Club on Sunday, where ruling party activists attacked pro-BNP lawyers and journalists.
‘The press club and Supreme Court premises have been converted into a refuge for one political group,’ he said.
‘We have information that militants held meetings at the press club,’ he said.
About the incident on the Supreme Court premises, he said that the police had entered the premises with permission from the court officials, adding that the police would request the court authorities to investigate whether the court premises was being used by a certain quarter as political refuge.
The DMP chief refused comments on the siege of BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s residence.
The siege of Khaleda Zia’s residence and events on the Supreme Court premises remained in focus since the government had foiled the opposition’s ‘march for democracy’ to Dhaka by blocking all its entry points and banning a rally it had planned for Sunday.
Khaleda’s house remained under heavy police cordon with sand-laden trucks blocking the road in front at both ends. Khaleda is reported to have attempted once again to go out on Monday.
Despite noticeable absence of buses in the city, traffic on the main roads – mostly rickshaws, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and cars – was almost as usual, especially since noon. Busy intersections such as Farm Gate, Bijoy Sarani and Mirpur 10 experienced intermittent periods of traffic jam.
Long-route bus services remained stalled on Monday. Only three launches left Dhaka from Sadarghat, while no trains left or entered the city, said Nipendranath Saha, master of Kamlapur railway station.
The situation in other major cities was no different as New Age orrespondents in Narayanganj, Jessore and Barisal reported suspension of Dhaka-bound bus and launch services. Narayanganj city was also kept under virtual blockade with 16 check points set up to prevent trouble.
Clashes between police and opposition activists were reported from Jessore while at Bogra, miscreants set fire to a truck and exploded at least 18 cocktails at different points since early Monday.

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