12:00 AM, September 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:52 AM, September 10, 2018

Election nears, fear escalates

BNP leaders, activists worry over arrests

With about three and a half months left before the parliamentary election, BNP leaders say their activists and supporters are in growing fear of arrest as new cases have been filed against many of their men and unnamed people.

More than 1 lakh people, mainly BNP activists, have been made accused in 1,200 cases filed across the country in the last 20 days, claimed party leaders. 

Besides, around 2,000 BNP men were arrested on various charges during the period as law enforcers went tough on them on instruction from top officials of the government and the police, they added.

Police sources told The Daily Star that field-level officials have been asked to arrest BNP leaders and activists who are facing warrants and who may create anarchy in the coming days centring the election.

Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary, however, said on Saturday that the arrests of the party men have nothing to do with the election.

“Police arrest only those who are accused in different cases or have arrest warrants against them. We are ready to prevent any sort of anarchy centring the upcoming general election.”

He also asked district-level police chiefs to remain alert so that no one can spread false information through social media to cause deterioration of law and order.

The BNP high-ups say such cases were filed to harass the party activists and supporters so that they cannot get organised ahead of the national elections slated to be held in late December.

“It's an old, evil design of the government to keep the BNP out of the electoral fray,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told this newspaper last night. 

“The government is filing ghost cases against our leaders and activists, from various tiers as it doesn't want a fair election. For this, there is an arrest spree even before the announcement of the election schedule,” he added.

Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, the party's standing committee member, said, “Police have started filing false and fabricated cases against BNP leaders and activists.

“We do not have any political programmes right now. Still police are filing cases showing made-up incidents. It indicates that the government is afraid of the BNP.”

Party leaders alleged the crackdown became more severe seeing the participation of BNP leaders and activists on the September 1 rally marking the founding anniversary of the party.

Party leaders have been compiling data of fresh arrests and cases and will make it public today through a press conference, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of the party, said.

BNP leaders are also asking grassroots leaders to stay alert and avoid police harassment.

“We are giving legal assistance to the arrested BNP leaders and activists in districts,” said Barkatullah Bulu, vice chairman of the party.

The BNP is in the opposition for the last 12 years; so the party men know what to do in such a crucial time, he added.

Grassroots leaders alleged that the party men cannot stay in their houses as police are conducting raids regularly.

“Police have been filing false cases one after another. In Gangni upazila of my district, 23 were arrested on Thursday, six on Saturday and five yesterday,” said Amzad Hossain, general secretary of Meherpur BNP.

The Election Commission is likely to announce the election schedule in October.

Although the BNP is yet to make a formal announcement, party insiders said it would participate in the election whatever the situation is. 

The BNP and most other political parties boycotted the last parliamentary polls demanding election under a non-partisan interim government.