Free Press Journal

Bangladesh police besiege Khaleda Zia at office ahead of polls


Khaleda Zia

Dhaka: Bangladesh’s opposition leader Khaleda Zia has been confined to her office since last night after police besieged the former premier’s office ahead of the first anniversary of last year’s controversial elections boycotted by her party.

Zia, the chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party who had refused to participate in what she branded a “farce” election, remained cordoned off inside her Gulshan office here since last night and security forces, including women police, were deployed outside the building.

“She (Zia) had been barred by police from leaving the office…She had been confined (at her office) against her will,” Zia’s special assistant Shimul Biswas told reporters. But a police spokesman Monirul Islam rejected the allegation and said, “She has not been confined in any way, rather her security was beefed up…she could have gone home last night if she wanted.” BNP had boycotted the polls, saying it was manipulated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.

The party planned to mark the anniversary as “Democracy Killing Day” staging a grand rally in Dhaka tomorrow. Witnesses said sand-laden trucks and police cars blocked the main entrance to her office virtually preventing anyone from leaving the building. At least two big police trucks were deployed at each end of the roads to cut off the road route to Gulshan office. Armoured trucks, water cannon and members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) were also seen stationed nearby.

Zia did not appear before the newsmen and TV cameras at the office premises but TV footages showed a number of women leaders with her this morning. Police also locked up the BNP headquarters at Naya Paltan area in central Dhaka removing the activists from the office and picking up BNP’s joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.

Police took an apparently ailing Rizvi to a private hospital in an ambulance where he was admitted for abdominal ailments while laying a siege around the two offices of BNP. Early today, police also raided the Uttara residence of BNP acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. However, he was not to be found, reports said.

The development came as the BNP-led 20-party alliance prepared for a massive gathering at Nayapaltan. The ruling Awami League is also preparing to hold rallies at 16 points in the capital, raising fears of a face-off with the opposition on the first anniversary of the January 5 polls.