BNP turns up heat on govt
The capital's Nayapaltan area turned into a battlefield yesterday as BNP activists fought with police, who had stopped their procession pressing the government to locate party leader Ilias Ali.
Over 50 people, including BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, RTV reporter Iqbal and cameraperson Emon, were injured during the clash, sources say. According to police, some 27 cops were hurt.
Beginning around 5:15pm, the clash continued till police and Rab brought the situation under control more than an hour later at 6:30pm.
The angry activists smashed nearly 40 vehicles at Nayapaltan and torched five others, including a police jeep, a bus and a microbus, in Rajarbagh Police Lines area.
Two cars belonging to the television channels RTV and ATN news were parked in front of BNP office. The protesters damaged them as well.
A bus at Farmgate around 8:30pm and another at Malibagh around 9:30pm were seen burning.
The opposition supporters exploded five handmade bombs near the party's Nayapaltan office, witnesses say.
Also yesterday, local units of the BNP enforced dawn-to-dusk hartals in four districts under Sylhet division to protest the missing of Ilias, an organising secretary of the party and president of its Sylhet district unit.
The BNP on Sunday will observe a nationwide hartal, to which the party-led 18-party alliance has extended its support.
“We will be on the streets on the hartal day to protest the missing of Ilias Ali. The 18 parties will jointly enforce the shutdown,” said Oli Ahmad, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, after a meeting of the alliance at the BNP Chairperson's Gulshan office.
The new alliance sat last night for the first time after its formation on Wednesday.
Terming Ilias' going out of trace a bad omen for democracy, Oli asked the government to give the leader back to his family.
Former lawmaker Ilias, 51, along with his driver has remained untraced since Tuesday night. His car was found abandoned in the capital's Mohakhali.
Kazi Mainul Islam, officer-in-charge of Banani Police station, yesterday said the abandoned car had marks of damage on its rear bumper. Experts were now examining what might have happened to the automobile before it was abandoned.
DEMONSTRATION AND CLASH
The main opposition party yesterday staged demonstrations in all divisional headquarters, including Dhaka.
A swarm of leaders, workers and supporters joined a rally held in front of the BNP's Nayapaltan office around 4:00pm, with BNP city unit convener Sadeque Hossain Khoka in the chair.
Mirza Fakhrul and other party leaders addressed the gathering.
After the rally, opposition men tried to take out a procession led by the acting secretary general but police obstructed them at Nightingale crossing, triggering the hour-long clash.
Police fired several teargas canisters and baton-charged to disperse the angry activists, who were pelting them with brickbats.
Traffic was suspended at Bijoynagar, Fakirapool and Nayapaltan.
Nazrul Islam Khan, a BNP standing committee member, said law enforcers swooped on their procession without any provocation while police officer Nikhil said they charged batons when the BNP men started throwing brickbats like rain.
BNP BRIEFS DIPLOMATS
The main opposition party yesterday briefed foreign diplomats about its former lawmaker going missing and urged them to exert pressure on the government for his immediate rescue.
A BNP delegation at a meeting with the diplomats at a Gulshan hotel alleged that some government agencies had picked up Ilias Ali on Tuesday night.
Representatives from the US, the UK, the European Union, the Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, France, Canada and several other embassies were present.
The BNP delegation included party Vice-chairman Shamser Mobin Chowdhury, standing committee member Moyeen Khan and BNP chief Khaleda Zia's adviser Riaz Rahman.
“The meeting was part of the BNP's regular discussion with diplomats. Today we informed them about the recent killings and disappearances. We also exchanged views on Ilias Ali's going missing,” Shamser told reporters after the meeting.
He said the diplomats assured them of informing their governments about the BNP leader's being without trace.
Meanwhile, the High Court yesterday issued a rule on the government to explain within 10 days as to why it should not be directed to produce Ilias Ali before the court.
The HC bench of Justice Farid Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Hasan Arif issued the rule following a writ petition by the BNP leader's wife, Tahsina Rushdi.
Earlier in the morning, the HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim also issued a suo moto order on the government asking it to find Ilias Ali.
The bench led by Justice Manik issued the suo moto following news reports that Ilias Ali along with his driver went missing on Tuesday night.
It, however, withdrew the order after Moudud Ahmed, a lawyer for Tahsina, informed it that the bench of Justice Farid and Justice Hasan had already given a rule on the same matter.
Meanwhile, a Dhaka court yesterday directed Banani police to submit reports to it every 48 hours on the progress of the investigation into the whereabouts of Ilias Ali.
Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Moniruzzaman gave the order after Kazi Mainul Islam, officer-in-charge of Banani Police Station, submitted a petition before his court seeking permission to probe the general diary filed by Ilias's wife in this connection.
SHAHARA ASSURES FAKHRUL
Home Minister Shahara Khatun yesterday assured the BNP that the government was making all-out efforts to rescue Ilias Ali.
She gave this assurance to a BNP delegation that met her at her secretariat office where State Minister for Home Shamsul Hoque Tuku was also present.
Mirza Fakhrul led the delegation.
After the meeting Tuku told reporters that the detectives, police and Rapid Action Battalion had been asked to investigate the matter and the government was trying to rescue Ilias as early as possible.
“The government is embarrassed at Ilias Ali going missing. We've taken all measures to find him. We've also asked the BNP leaders to remain alert so no political unrest is created over the issue," he said.
Mirza Fakhrul later told reporters, "We've faith in the assurance. If the government really wants to trace him, it is possible.”