The BNP on Sunday said it will consider other venues for holding its 10 December Dhaka rally, softening its earlier position on arranging the political programme at Nayapaltan at any cost.
"If we get any suitable alternative venue, we will consider it. But it should not be Suhrawardy Udyan or on the bank of River Turag," BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a press briefing on Sunday.
Amid arrests of BNP men in different districts and block raids in the capital by cops ahead of the BNP rally, Mirza Fakhrul appeared at an impromptu press conference at BNP's Nayapaltan central office.
He accused the government of "unnecessarily creating complications" over the venue permission and "repressive measures" to thwart the rally.
As the political opposition is upbeat about the Dhaka rally after nine rallies since early-October with the latest one in Rajshahi on 3 December, police have launched a 15-day nationwide raid on 1 December.
Sources from the police and law enforcement agencies said that they will carry-out an all-out search from Thursday in Dhaka and they have already been asked to nab the accused against pending arrest warrants in hundreds of previous (political) cases.
Police are now gathering information about BNP men as the manhunt in pending political cases will begin from Thursday, according to sources at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
According to the police headquarters, cops arrested 1,356 people on various charges in the last 24 hours till Sunday evening as part of the drive. Md Monzur Rahman, assistant inspector general of the Police Headquarters, said 358 cases were filed against the arrestees.
At Sunday's press conference, Fakhrul said some 1,031 BNP activists were arrested alone in Dhaka from 30 November to December 4.
On Saturday, BNP's youth wing Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal President Sultan Salahuddin Tuku and two other leaders were arrested while returning from the Rajshahi programme. Barricades and police checkpoints were set up on roads adjacent to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's Gulshan residence. A block raid was conducted in Dhaka's Banani as a crude bomb went off in front of BNP Nayapaltan office.
A case has been filed against 60 unnamed people over the crude bomb blast, Golam Ruhani, assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP, Motijheel Zone), told The Business Standard on Sunday.
In a separate development, BNP leader Ishrak Hossain was attacked on Sunday noon by ruling party's student wing Chhatra League while distributing leaflets in Old Dhaka.
Fakhrul at the press conference alleged the government is trying to "divert" the BNP rally "to a different direction".
Nayapaltan police deployment Friday
The BNP has been holding divisional rallies since early-October demanding the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, reinstating poll-time caretaker government, withdrawal of political cases against the leaders and activists and protesting the commodity price hikes.
The divisional programmes were largely peaceful and drew massive crowds despite having rolling transport strikes, mobile phone network and internet blackout, and other obstacles.
Police did not bar the divisional rallies. But police permission for the venue of the Dhaka rally has now appeared to be a crucial factor, pushing up political tensions.
The BNP said it would hold the programme at Nayapaltan at any cost. But the DMP offered the political opposition Suhrawardy Udyan on 26 conditions instead of Nayapaltan. The BNP replied in negative to the police proposal.
Police will be deployed in Nayapaltan area on Friday morning, said a top DMP official while talking to The Business Standard on condition of anonymity.
The official said no one would be allowed to gather or carry out any procession there obstructing public movements.
Besides, police will conduct searches at checkpoints of the entry points of the capital.
Another top DMP official said they have not started the drive yet. Rather, they are now gathering information about the accused BNP men in pending cases and their whereabouts. They have been asked to arrest the accused from Thursday.
No advance bus ticket for 9-10 Dec
Most of the bus operators in Dhaka are not selling advance tickets from and to the capital, as it is still unclear whether there will be a transport strike by bus owners ahead of the political programme.
Jamil Ahmed Khandoker, president of Motors Association Cumilla, told The Business Standard that they were not selling any tickets to and from Cumilla to Dhaka for 9-10 December.
"It will be decided in a meeting within two days whether long-haul buses would run or not ahead of the rally," he added.
Bijon Bihari Ghosh, owner of an inter-district bus service, said they want to run the buses, as keeping vehicles idle means business losses.
"But if there is a decision to go for a strike, we will obey to that," he added.
Transport leaders in Chattogram and some other districts also said they are waiting for the central body decision.