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Standoff as BNP won't budge, government won't back down on Dec 10 Dhaka rally venue


Standoff as BNP won't budge, government won't back down on Dec 10 Dhaka rally venue

Political temperature in Bangladesh rose quite a few more notches up in the last couple of weeks due to a standoff between the Awami League government and the BNP over the dispute surrounding the venue of a scheduled rally of the opposition party on Dec 10, bdnews24.com reports.

The frenzy of rhetoric between the two sides of the political divide has reached a new low lately and the tension and anxiety mounted so high that the UK on Tuesday issued a travel advisory for its citizens currently in Bangladesh or are about to travel to Bangladesh, alerting them to possible violence in Dhaka on Dec 10. 

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq was approached on Tuesday evening with the question about the plan of action of the administration to avoid a direct showdown that could potentially feed political instability.

He warned of legal action against the BNP functionaries if they do not back down from their staunch stance of holding the rally in the Naya Paltan area, home to the party’s headquarters. 

“I hope they [BNP leaders] will keep adhering to the law of the land to maintain order," he said before adding in the same breath "necessary legal action will be taken if the party violates any law”. 

Senior BNP leaders, in the meantime, have made it very clear that they will not, under any circumstances, hold the rally at Suhrawary Udyan, the place designated by police for the rally, as the party has “security concerns” about the place.

Recently, Amanullah Aman, one of the coordinators of the Dhaka rally, said: “Suhrawardy Udyan is surrounded on all sides, with only one small gate for people to go in and come out. It is not fit for holding a large rally.”

Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir echoed Aman’s concerns and said they will rally in Naya Paltan regardless of police permission. 

But, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal is still sanguine about a solution, to put it mildly, when the same question was put to him. 

“They [BNP leaders] are well aware that the public opinion is against them. People are already questioning the motives behind their refusal to use Suhrawardy Udyan as the venue. 

"(But) I honestly believe BNP leaders will finally soften their stance and come to a settlement. I don’t think they are interested in continuing this stalemate. We’ve given them some alternatives to Suhrawardy Udyan as well,” he said. 

DMP’s Additional Commissioner AKM Hafiz Akhtar, who has been acting as the point person for police department to deal with the matter, shared the minister’s optimism. 

“We are negotiating because we still have enough time to come to an agreement. I spoke with the [BNP leaders] about the issue even [Tuesday]. I believe they’ll eventually budge from their stance,” he said.

NOT ON STREETS: POLICE

Earlier on Tuesday, police turned down a request by the BNP to use the road in front of Motijheel’s Ideal School and College as an alternative to Naya Paltan for the rally.

No approval will be given for the use of roads and residential areas for rallies, said Faruk Hossain, a spokesman for DMP. “Police never grant people permission to block a road. No one should ask for that permission either. Police will act in accordance with the safety of the public.”

Amid back-and-forth about the issue after police cleared Suhrawardy Udyan for the rally, the BNP said on Sunday that if an ‘acceptable alternative’ was found, it would be discussed.

DMP Commissioner Golam Faruq then gave BNP leader Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Annie and Motijheel Division Deputy Commissioner Hayatul Islam the responsibility of touring the area and finding a suitable alternative.

“We told them that the alternative location proposed was a dead-end road. And there isn’t as much traffic on Saturdays. We informed police about our alternative location,” said Annie.

“[The BNP] told us verbally about the road in front of Ideal School,” said Hayatul. “But rallies cannot be held on roads or in residential areas.”

Asked what the BNP would do now, Annie said: “We did not ask for the Suhrawardy Udyan, nor did we apply for it. We believe it is unsafe. We will not hold a programme there – that is final.”

“We hope that police will help us hold the rally at the alternative location we told them about. If they don't approve it, it will be held at Naya Paltan. We want to hold a peaceful rally. If that does not happen, they will have to bear the responsibility.”

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