Jatiya Oikyafront, the newly-floated alliance of the BNP and several other parties, holds it first-ever rally today in Sylhet amid hurdles and uncertainty over its next programmes.
All preparations for the rally, to be held at Registrar's Office field in Bandarbazar, were completed. However, panic gripped the platform's leaders and activists after police raided the houses of many of them on Monday night.
Amid such a situation, Dr Kamal Hossain, president of the Gonoforum, a component in the alliance, expressed concern over the way things have unfolded.
"We are worried over the government's recent activities and we are afraid that the country's smooth political atmosphere will be destroyed,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Law enforcers also obstructed the Oikyafront men from campaigning in Sylhet yesterday and took away six megaphones from them, its leaders alleged.
Oikyafront leaders, however, were more worried about a “leaflet-distribution campaign” of Sylhet district and city units Awami League to be held today near the rally venue, they said.
On October 16, the platform had announced the rally for mobilising public support for its 11-point goal and seven-point demand, including an election under a nonpartisan interim government, dissolution of parliament and deployment of army before the polls. The alliance was launched on October 13.
BNP leaders yesterday claimed that police raided the houses of Shahid Ahmed, adviser of Sylhet district unit BNP, Abdur Rahman, member of the same unit, and other party leaders in Tukerbazar, Madina Market and Darshan Dewri areas in the city.
Sylhet BNP General Secretary Ali Ahmed said they could only distribute leaflets while campaigning for the rally due to police obstruction. The law enforcers also stopped 10 vehicles with loudspeakers, he said.
"Police created panic among us by conducting the raid and obstructing our activists from campaigning. But we are ready to make the rally a success," Abul Kaher Shamim, president of Sylhet district unit BNP, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The BNP has taken an all-out preparation for today's programme. A number of activists and supporters of the alliance from adjoining districts have already gathered in the city and more are expected to turn up at the venue of the rally, starting at 2:00pm.
Security measures have been beefed up.
Contacted, Shafiqur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Jalalabad Police Station, and Selim Miah, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station, confirmed the raids, saying those were regular police move aimed at arresting accused in different cases.
However, no arrests were made on Monday night.
The police officials said they stopped the vehicles with loudspeakers as they had no permission for them.
Nikulin Chakma, additional deputy commissioner (traffic) of Sylhet Metropolitan Police, said, "We will not allow any large vehicles like bus inside the city. If the crowd pours into the street, we will divert the traffic to alternative routes."
There has been much drama over the Oikyafront's maiden rally as police twice turned down the platform's application seeking permission. However, the platform got the permission on Sunday.
Ever since its formation, the alliance has been facing criticisms from government high-ups. Dr Kamal, who played a key role in forging the alliance, has been a particular target.
The platform is also struggling to get permission for holding a planned view-exchanging meeting with civil society members and professionals in Dhaka on October 26.
Besides, it had announced rallies in Chattogram and Rajshahi on October 27 and November 2 respectively, but hasn't yet managed police permission for them.