The government launched a fresh crackdown on the BNP yesterday with law enforcers detaining three of its top leaders.
At least 35 central leaders of the main opposition party, including the three, are now behind bars.
Of them, five are standing committee members, three vice-chairmen, three advisers to the BNP chief, two joint secretary generals, two assistant joint secretary generals, two organising secretaries and 11 leaders of different ranks. They were arrested over the past two months.
Five of the detainees are lawmakers.
Besides, most of the top leaders of various front bodies of the BNP, including Chhatra Dal, are in jail for the last three months.
Those detained yesterday are party Vice-chairperson Selima Rahman, Organising Secretary Fazlul Haque Milon and Khaleda's adviser Khandaker Mahbub Hossain.
Five others were also picked up but released later. They are Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque, lawmakers Harunur Rashid, Nazimuddin Ahmed and Ashrafuddin Nizan and Mahila Dal General Secretary Shirin Sultana.
As of last night, police were yet to press any charges against the three detainees, but State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku told the BBC Bangla Service that they were arrested on specific charges of instigating recent violence.
Contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Masudur Rahman said they picked up Mahbub for his recent "provocative" remarks about the government.
He would not comment about the charges against the three others, but said they would be produced before a Dhaka court today.
The latest crackdown came a day after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government would take stern action against troublemakers to protect people's lives and properties.
Hours before the detention, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said the government would be forced to take a hardline to contain post-polls violence if the BNP-Jamaat did not stop it.
Selima Rahman, sister of Rashed Khan Menon, a top leader in the ruling alliance, was picked up soon after she announced a 12-hour extension of the opposition hartal at a press briefing at her Gulshan house.
Sensing police presence around her house, Selima went to her brother's house (not Menon) on the third floor of the same building. Detectives took her to the DB office from there.
Earlier on December 30, police detained her while she was trying to enter Khaleda's Gulshan residence. But she was later released upon undertakings.
Khandaker Mahbub, also former president of the Supreme Bar Association (SCBA), was held minutes after he told a programme at the Jatiya Press Club that the January 5 election was a farce.
The SCBA demanded his immediate release.
In December, detectives arrested BNP Vice-chairman Maj (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed soon after he called upon the opposition men to join the December 29 Dhaka march programme.
Since his arrest, the BNP is having difficulties finding leaders to hold press conferences to announce its programmes.
“These days, we have to request the top leaders for holding press conferences,” a BNP leader told The Daily Star recently.
A large-scale crackdown on the BNP first came on March 11 last year -- the day several hundred policemen raided the party's Nayapaltan office and arrested 153 opposition men, including acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Fakhrul and some other leaders were later released on bail.
Then on November 8, detectives arrested BNP standing committee members Moudud Ahmed, MK Anwar and Rafiqul Islam Mia.
Khaleda Zia's Adviser Abdul Awal Mintoo and her Special Assistant Shimul Biswas were also picked up on the same day.
Four days later, plainclothes detectives allegedly assaulted BNP Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed and arrested him in an outlandish pre-dawn raid on the party's central office.
Before his arrest, Rizvi had been acting as the party spokesperson, after most of the senior leaders went into hiding to avoid arrest.
Yesterday, Zainul Abdin, Nizan, Harunur Rashid, Shirin, Nazimuddin and Milon were holding a meeting at the opposition chief whip's business office in Baridhara, said the building's caretaker.
Police first detained all of them, but later arrested Nazimuddin and Milon.
Meanwhile, the BNP units in Barguna, Gazipur and Laxmipur -- from where Mahbub, Milon and Nazimuddin hail -- have called a daylong hartal in those districts for today to protest their detention.
In Selima's home district Barisal, the local BNP has called a 48-hour shutdown from this morning in two upazilas -- Babuganj and Mehendiganj -- in protest at her arrest.