All eyes on court


Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:It is a nervy siege situation; the capital has been wrapped in an unprecedented security blanket.

Alongside a huge number of regular law enforcers, the government yesterday deployed paramilitary forces in Dhaka and elsewhere ahead of the verdict in a corruption case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

In the capital alone, 20 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (each platoon has 10-20 members) were deployed in the evening. Another 23 platoons have been called in for deployment across the country.

Police set up checkpoints in the city and at all entry points of the capital, and searched people. They also raided different places including mess, hotels and houses of BNP leaders and workers.

A policeman talks to a detained BNP leader near Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court as the law enforcer takes him to the court yesterday. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Police also checked inter-district buses in efforts to prevent BNP activists from coming to Dhaka.

Vigilance by regular law enforcers and intelligence agencies has been increased since a special court fixed today for the verdict.

Awami League men will also be on the streets to prevent the opposition party activists from “resorting to violence” centring on the judgment.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police said it would deploy majority of its 35,000-strong force alongside members of Rab and other agencies. Usually, some 8,000 members of the DMP are deployed.

All measures are aimed at preventing BNP men from staging demonstration or causing any damage to life and properties, as the party planned a large gathering in the capital during the court proceedings set to start at 11:00am.

Khaleda will leave her Gulshan home around 10:00am.

The home minister, inspector general of police and the DMP commissioner warned of tough actions against troublemakers.

“We hope that the law and order will be normal and under control across the country. If anyone tries to disrupt law and order and threaten public safety, law enforcers will handle it strictly,” IGP Javed Patwary told reporters at the police headquarters.

Border Guard Bangladesh personnel leave their headquarters at Pilkhana in the capital yesterday evening. At least 20 platoons of BGB were deployed inside Dhaka ahead of the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case verdict to be delivered today. Photo: Collected

DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said they had no information of any possible act of sabotage.

“But due to past experience, we cannot rule it out,” he told reporters.

At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Khaleda alleged that the court was being “abused” to keep her from the election. She also urged her party men to continue their peaceful and systematic programmes.

She faces up to life term in prison.

Unless the High Court stays the trial court verdict, the former prime minister will be ineligible for the parliament polls slated for December if she is sentenced to at least two years in jail.

Security has been beefed up around the special court in Bakshibazar in old Dhaka. The DMP and the Rab installed CCTV cameras inside and outside the court premises yesterday.

Fearing violence, authorities of many Bangla and English medium schools and private offices have decided to keep those closed, and people from different districts cancelled their trips to the capital.

However, today’s SSC exam will take place as per the routine, said Shahedul Khabir Chowdhury, acting chairman of Dhaka Education Board.

In the last seven days, police arrested some 60 people more a day, compared with their usual average, said the IGP.

Police normally arrest some 2,500 people across the country every month.

As part of the ongoing crackdown on BNP-Jamaat leaders and activists across the country, police arrested at least 400 BNP-Jamaat leaders and activists from Tuesday night to early Wednesday. The number of arrested people in many districts could not be known immediately.

Of them, 150 were arrested in Chittagong, 79 in Comilla, 54 in Brahmanbaria, 50 in Bagerhat, 45 in Tangail, 11 in Chapainawabganj, eight in Jessore and three in Barisal, report our correspondents.

Asked about the reported arrest of Habibun Nabi Khan Sohel, the DMP commissioner said no police units detained the BNP leader.

Today’s verdict will likely be a game changer in Bangladesh politics.

In her 35 years in politics, Khaleda spent times in jail several times, but has never been convicted. She had been detained several times during the anti-Ershad movement in the 1980s and in 1990.

During the last army-backed caretaker government tenure, she was in jail for about a year on corruption charges.

Khaleda was made BNP vice-chairperson in March 1983 after the assassination of her husband Ziaur Rahman. She became chairperson on May 10 the next year.

Meanwhile, jail sources said Khaleda might be kept at the Woman Cell and Daycare Centre at the old Dhaka Central jail in old Dhaka, if convicted. The Jail authorities have already renovated the cell.

The VIP prison cell in Kashimpur Female Jail has also been readied.

The sources said considering the risk of taking her to Kashimpur, she might be temporarily kept in the old Dhaka Central Jail where security was beefed up yesterday.

“We have been deployed in the area since morning,” a sub-inspector told The Daily Star yesterday.

Khaleda’s lawyers and BNP leaders said they would challenge the verdict in the High Court.

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