DHAKA: The main opposition BNP and its allies Sunday staged a countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal, the first major political move against the seventeen-month-old Awami League government, amid strong picketing in some areas and mass arrests.
Vehicles, bar a few buses and manually driven three-wheeler rickshaws, were largely off the streets and educational institutions remained closed in the capital.
Police beat away unruly pickets at some places and detained around 400, including BNP leaders and activists, from different areas in the city.
The main opposition party, BNP, enforced the general strike to press their various demands that include ensuring supply of gas, electricity and water, stopping extortion, tender manipulation and grabbing allegedly by ruling-party `terrorists`, scrapping `anti-nation` agreements signed with India and containing the price hike of essentials.
A major incident of violence occurred in Shahjahanpur area after police detained BNP standing committee member and ex-minister Mirza Abbas during the hartal hours.
The law enforcers picked him up in front of a hotel of Shahjahanpur area at about 11:00am on charge of letting loose anarchy, as BNP activists staged strong picketing in his area.
Meanwhile, law enforcers also picked up BNP vice-chairman and ex-foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Khaleda Zia’s advisers advocate Ahmed Azam Khan and Prof Abdul Mannan, former state minister Abdul Hye and Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal convener of Jagannath University Golam Mowla Shahin, among others.
Earlier, 273 people were detained from different spots of Lalbagh, Sutrapur, Kotwali, Bongshal, Hazaribagh, Shahbagh and Shah Ali areas. Others were nabbed from Uttara, Badda, Khilgaon and Jatrabari Thana areas, police said.
The opposition, however, claimed that the countrywide hartal against the government’s misrule was being observed successfully with spontaneous popular support.
“The spontaneous participation of the people proved that the hartal is cent-percent successful," BNP secretary-general Khandaker Delwar Hossain said while addressing a press briefing Sunday at the party`s Naya Paltan office.
He demanded unconditional release of the leaders and activists held during the strike.
Ruling-party leaders refuted the opposition claim to success in their hartal programme. Awami League general secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said his party would not take any responsibility for those who were allegedly involved in attacks on hartal supporters.
He made the comments while talking to journalists Sunday at the secretariat following alleged attacks by Chhatra League and Juba League activists on the pickets during the shutdown.
Mahbub-UL-Hanif, joint general secretary of Awami League, said at a news conference at the PM’s Dhanmondi office that today’s hartal was a total flop.
“BNP wanted to execute the hartal programme by frightening people, but it was not fulfilled,” he said.
BDST:1519HRS, June 27, 2010