The BNP was finally allowed to hold its 10 December Dhaka rally on the Golapbagh ground, while its two top leaders – Mirza Fakhrul Islam and Mirza Abbas – were sent to jail as a Dhaka court refused their bail petition in a case filed over Nayapaltan clashes with police.
After weeks of standoff over the rally venue, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police approved Golapbagh ground for the BNP's Dhaka rally on 26 conditions, which include holding the rally between 12 noon and 4:30pm.
The DMP, however, mentioned that its permission does not mean the final approval – the BNP will have to avail permission separately from appropriate authorities.
Eventually, the Dhaka South City Corporation in a statement on Friday night said allowing any kind of political gathering there might destroy state properties as construction and renovation work on the playground was underway.
The statement also reads that the city corporation had not yet received any kind of application from the BNP and they can only give a clean-chit once they get any written application from the party.
Nonetheless, BNP's high command aims to make Saturday's rally a success at any cost.
The party called on all parties who are ready to hold a simultaneous movement against the government to join the rally.
At a press conference at the party chairperson's Gulshan office, BNP Standing Committee Member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said the party in Saturday's rally will announce a 10-point charter of political programs to oust the government and hold the next general election under a neutral caretaker government.
"I call upon all the BNP leaders and activists and other parties who will be with us in the movement against the government to join Saturday's rally," he said.
Meanwhile, BNP leaders and activists started thronging Golapbagh ground in Dhaka since Friday afternoon as the party was finally given permission for holding its last divisional rally there. By the evening yesterday, thousands reached the venue in advance to join the anti-government rally that will formally begin at 11am.
People were seen coming to Golapbagh field with small processions from different parts of the city chanting anti-government slogans.
Arrests of BNP top brass
Mirza Fakhrul and Mirza Abbas were produced before the court on Friday afternoon, after more than 12 hours of detention and quizzing following their arrests on charges of inciting attacks on police and detonations of improvised explosives at Nayapaltan.
Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammed Jashim issued the order on Friday after dismissing the politicians' bail plea, said BNP's lawyer Masud Ahammed Talukder.
Later, the two top BNP leaders along with other arrestees were sent to the Keraniganj Central Jail by a prison van.
Investigation officer of the case, Inspector Tariqul Islam appealed to the court for keeping the two BNP leaders in jail until the investigation into the explosives case is over. If the arrestees get bail, they might create "obstacles" to the investigation process, he told the court.
The BNP's secretary general and standing committee member were detained in the early hours of Friday, hours after the BNP agreed to hold their 10 December Dhaka rally at a different venue other than Nayapaltan.
After visiting the two proposed venues - Mirpur Bangla College and Kamalapur Stadium – Mirza Abbas on Thursday night told journalists that none of the venues were safe for BNP activists.
An official of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) wishing anonymity told The Business Standard that they were instructed to arrest the top leaders of the BNP at midnight to "destroy" the morale of BNP activists and leaders at the grassroots level so that they cannot create any untoward situation centering the mass-rally.
The source also said that as the BNP was adamant to hold the rally at Nayapaltan, police had to arrest some top leaders of the party.
Meanwhile, BNP standing committee senior member Khandoker Mosharraf Hossain termed the arrest as a "fascist" act of the government.
Police filed five different cases against over 2,500 leaders and activists of the BNP, including 885 named ones, in connection with the clash between BNP activists and police in the capital's Nayapaltan area on Wednesday.
Police arrested more than 500 BNP activists and leaders across the city in connection with the clash and they were sued in these cases.
NP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi and Publication Secretary Shahiduddin Chowdhury Annie were among the top leaders who were sent to jail, pending further legal procedures. Meanwhile, the court granted bail to BNP's Dhaka North Convener Aman Ullah Aman and National Executive Committee member Abdul Kader Bhuiyan Jewel.
Tough actions make BNP backtrack
Not more than 18 hours before its much-talked-about Saturday mass rally in Dhaka, the main political opposition in the country, BNP, was finally given a venue after two weeks of a standoff between the party and the police administration.
With many of its top leaders landing in jail and law enforcers going on the hardline, the BNP also backtracked on its decision to hold the Saturday rally at Nayapaltan by any means and agreed to the DMP offer of holding the rally at Golapbagh ground.
Golapbagh ground is a few hundred meters away from Sayedabad Bus Terminal, the southern entry point of Dhaka. The area once was dominated by former minister and now BNP's standing committee member Mirza Abbas.
The ground, once a parking zone for Dhaka-bound buses from different long-haul routes, can hardly accommodate 25,000-30,000 people, according to police sources.
The DMP gave a go-ahead for BNP's Dhaka divisional rally giving around 26 conditions that the party might find "tough" to comply with in just over a night.
Police sources claimed that the BNP had finally agreed as they had no options. They, however, said that Golapbagh ground is not as big as the Surhawardi Udyan.
The 26 conditions given to BNP for the rally include limiting activities within the venue, deploying adequate volunteers during the rally, installing closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the venue, installing metal detectors for checking the delegates and following Covid safety guidelines while holding the rally.
The BNP men were also instructed not to gather on roads adjacent to the venue, not to broadcast any speech or display any content or caricature that may hurt religious sentiment, and not to carry blunt objects like sticks and rods.
The DMP, in its list of conditions, also prohibited the BNP from delivering instigating speech or distributing such leaflets and marching towards the venue with processions.
Party leaders and activists must assemble at the venue two hours before the rally starts, said the DMP letter.
BNP firm to make rally a success
Even though several hundred activists including many senior leaders of the BNP have landed in prison, the party's high command aims to make Saturday's rally a success at any cost.
The party will also announce a 10-point charter of future protest programmes to make the government resign, and realize their demand for an election-time caretaker government to hold the next general election in a free and fair manner.
BNP leader Khandoker Mosharraf Hossain said, "This rally is no longer a party rally, it is now a rally of the public. It does not matter if we (BNP leaders) are present there or not, it is the rally that matters. Their presence will make the gathering a success. Even if Mirza Fakhrul is not there, the people will make the rally a success."
"The reason for approving the Golapbagh ground so late was to make sure that we could not unite all the people. You [journalists] have seen the actions of the police to discourage the people. The road in front of the BNP party office was blocked by the police.
However, Awami League workers were allowed to hold processions in front of the party office.
"So, you can understand why the government is trying to stop this rally. Nine previous divisional rallies were held peacefully and successfully. The government has taken steps to prevent the public from joining the Dhaka rally."
The BNP leader alleged that the ruling party activists are preparing to disrupt the rally.
The BNP leader also said that the responsibility for any untoward incident centring the rally will fall on the government.
Meanwhile, thousands of BNP supporters started gathering at Golapbagh ground on Friday afternoon to join the party's 10 December rally.
Leaders and activists of the party were seen marching towards the venue in groups chanting anti-government slogans.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies beefed up security in and around the rally venue to avert any untoward situations.
More than 30,000 law enforcers have been deployed across the city including policemen, RAB and Ansar members.
Meanwhile, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury on Friday said the government brought 33,000 members of police and Bangladesh Ansar to Dhaka ahead of the BNP's 10 December rally.
Public suffering on highways continues
Ahead of the rally, long-haul bus trips remained low on different routes, there were fewer passengers too.
Even some of the Dhaka-bound passengers faced immense suffering in reaching Dhaka.
Police were carrying out all-out searches at every entry point of Dhaka and on highways. They checked the luggage, bags, and even mobile phones of the passengers.
According to the police, however, around seven lakh SIMs have entered Dhaka in the last few days ahead of the BNP rally.