Some 445 BNP men including senior party leaders were sent to jail on Thursday in at least five cases filed by cops over deadly clashes at Nayapaltan the previous day.
Besides, 23 BNP leaders and activists were placed on remand in those cases with thousands of unnamed people accused of vandalism, attack on police and several other charges.
Amid the arrests and uncertainty, two alternative venues – Kamalapur stadium and Mirpur Bangla College ground – for BNP's Dhaka rally on 10 December cropped up on Thursday night.
After a meeting with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner, BNP Vice Chairman Barkatullah Bulu told journalists that they preferred Kamalapur stadium, but police proposed them the Bangla College ground.
"We will notify them [police] shortly after visiting both the venues tonight," he added.
The BNP was determined to hold the rally in front of its Nayapaltan party office throughout Thursday.
"Our position is clear: we will hold our rally in Nayapaltan. Now it is the government's responsibility to ensure a peaceful political programme there," BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a press briefing on Thursday noon.
But Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan warned the BNP against rallying in Nayapaltan on 10 December.
"No anarchy will be allowed in the name of rally and no rally will be allowed on streets," the minister said. He also offered full cooperation to the BNP if the party agreed to hold the gathering at Suhrawardy Udyan, which was designated to the political opposition by police.
About the BNP-police clashes in Nayapaltan which left a person dead, and subsequent police raid on Nayapaltan BNP office, the home minister said police charged the BNP gathering and fired teargas shells in self-defence.
But the BNP secretary general said police swooped down on the peaceful gathering without any provocation on Wednesday. He also accused the authorities of "planting crude bombs" inside the Nayapaltan office "to foil the rally".
"Bomb recovery from the party office is nothing but a drama staged by police," the top BNP leader said.
After "collecting evidence and clearing crude bombs", police opened roads adjacent to BNP Nayapaltan office to public on Thursday evening. The main gate of the BNP office was also unlocked.
After Wednesday's clashes, police's bomb disposal unit cordoned around 900 metres of roads at one of the busiest locations in Dhaka.
"Vehicles of the bomb disposal unit were called in after multiple improvised explosive devices were found," Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Joint Commissioner (operations) Biplob Kumar Sarker said.
"Police removed the barricade partially after the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was done collecting evidence and investigating the crime scene this evening," he said.
On Thursday, chases and counter chases occurred between BNP and police as the party activists tried to gather in Nayapaltan. Witnesses said police detained 4 -5 persons for chanting anti-government slogans.
Police set checkpoints on highways
The Business Standard district correspondents reported less-than-usual long haul buses on highways on Thursday.
Police set up temporary checkpoints at different points and were searching Dhaka-bound passengers ahead of the rally, they reported.
Police on Thursday also ramp up search at the entry points and key points of the capital. The Rapid Action Battalion said they intensified surveillance ahead of the BNP rally.
All Dhaka-bound transports including long haul buses, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, motorbikes and cars were being searched at the checkpoints at Gabtoli, Sayedabad, and Tongi.
According to locals, police were interrogating commuters, checking out their phones and conducting body searches.
BNP leaders said the checkpoints are set up to deter partymen from entering the city.
Don't obstruct peaceful assembly: ASK
In a statement on Thursday, human rights organisation Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK) strongly condemned and protested the excessive use of force by the police in suppressing opposition political parties.
"Peaceful assembly plays an important role in fulfilling other rights of citizens. In this case, obstruction or force is against democratic values. ASK appeals to the authorities to ensure that the right to peaceful assembly and expression is not violated and that existing laws and international standards are not violated," the statement read.