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Bangladesh bans rallies,street protests; BNP to defy

Ban following Sheikh Hasina's proposal to form an interim all-party govt to oversee next general election.

Written by PTI | Dhaka | October 20, 2013 3:56:29 pm

Bangladeshi authorities have banned rallies and street protests in the capital city Dhaka for an indefinite period,just days ahead of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s grand rally to mount pressure on the government to accept its demand for polls under a non-party caretaker government.

The BNP overnight decided to defy the ban on rallies,prompting the authorities to deploy riot police to prevent any untoward incident.

BNP said a high-level party meeting on Saturday night decided to defy the ban while its leader ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia would join later on Sunday a scheduled convention of professionals at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) here.

“Khaleda Zia will join the programme as chief guest and speak” at the of the pro-BNP professionals,a BNP spokesman told reporters.

Police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion men were deployed around the BICC and other strategic locations of the city to thwart possible street protests by BNP cadres.

“We will step up security measures,depending on the situation,” a police official said.

Media here quoting ruling Awami League sources said the ban was an indication of the government toughened stance while police might also launch a crackdown on opposition leaders and activists if they tried to stage street protests defying the ban.

The development came amid a proposal by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to form an interim all-party government to oversee Bangladesh’s next general election.

The constitution states that the election must be held within 90 days of the end of the tenure of the parliament. The term of the current parliament will end on October 25 and polls must be held by January 25,2014.

Reacting to the premier’s proposal,BNP’s acting secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said it “has nothing new to discuss about” but said the opposition would announce its stand on the proposal after a meeting with the leaders of the BNP-led 18-Party alliance later tonight.

But several BNP said they considered the prime minister’s proposal a “trick to confuse people”,and the party could place a counter proposal within two or three days.

The party has also decided to stage an indefinite Dhaka siege programme if it is not allowed to hold a rally in the capital on October 25,BNP leaders said.

Awami League has scrapped the caretaker system amending the constitution with its three fourths majority in the Parliament two years ago in line with a Supreme Court judgement that said it was contrary to the constitutionalism.

The opposition in subsequent months staged violent street protests leaving scores of people dead in recent months saying elections under the party government would not be fair.

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