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BNP rally raises tension in capital

Fear of violence has left most businesses and public transportation shut

Deserted streets today Deserted streets today
  • Rock Ronald Rozario, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • March 12, 2012
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A rally by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) today has locked down the capital, with city transportation limited or shut down and security forces out in force.

The Dhaka Cholo, or March to Dhaka, was announced late last year by BNP chairman Khaleda Zia, in an effort to galvanize opposition forces throughout Dhaka to oppose the policies of the ruling Awami League and call for a non-party caretaker government ahead of national polls in 2014.

Opposition leaders have said that the rally, to be conducted at locations throughout the city, would be the largest in the country’s history.

Fear of violence has left most businesses and public transportation shut.

Habibur Biswas, an office worker, said the disruption of transportation services had created difficulties for workers and students but stressed that political parties should reach a peaceful resolution to their disputes.

“If the political parties are tolerant and patient, the people won’t need to suffer and [will] live in peace,” he said.

Holy Cross Sister Shikha Gomes, principal of the Holy Cross College for Girls, said the rally had kept many students at home.

“Only 5 or 6 students dared to come for class today out of a total of 2,390 [students]. We have not declared a holiday but parents have called us, saying they won’t send their children today over fears of violence.”

The head of a government-run school said no students turned up today.

“Our teachers have come but none of the more than 2,200 students,” said the principal, who asked not to be named.

Awami League leaders have criticized the opposition for creating public suffering by calling for the rally.

Local media reports have said that Awami activists have blocked highways and waterways in response to the rally.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun at a press conference yesterday denied that party members or government officials had closed roads or businesses.

“We have beefed up security to avoid anarchy. The government has not restricted vehicles and hotels [from operating]. Police are just observing regular duties.”

BNP acting secretary Mirza Fakrul Islam said today that the opposition was upset over the “undemocratic attitude” of the government and hoped the rally would be a success amid restrictions.

The government has launched an undeclared war against people and cut the capital off from the rest of the country. We have never seen such a situation in the past and such oppression by the government,” he said yesterday.

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