POST TIME: 9 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Dhaka wears deserted look

Dhaka wears deserted look

Dhaka wore a deserted look yesterday as panic-stricken people remained indoors following the delivery of a politically sensitive verdict that convicted BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in a graft case. A Dhaka court sentenced the former prime minister to five years in prison after finding her guilty in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. The whole of Dhaka city looked deserted, as people refused to venture out, fearing trouble in the wake of Khaleda’s conviction.

Awami League leaders and activists were, however, seen at different points alongside police. With law enforcers tightening security measures to prevent the gathering of BNP supporters ahead of the verdict, virtually nothing entered Dhaka. Long-distance bus terminuses were empty.

Roads and highways had only thin traffic since morning. Many educational institutes cancelled classes. Some shops kept their shutters down and only those who had urgent work stepped out of the security of home.

City transport operators suspended services, fearing violence.

Many bus operators told The Independent that they would not provide any vehicles. A private bus operator said that police had instructed them to suspend bus services since Wednesday night.

The scene at Farmgate, Motijeel, and Karwanbazar resembled that of a government holiday or a general strike. The share-riding app-based service Pathao, too, was off the roads. Only a few public transport vehicles, such as CNG auto-rickshaws and human-haulers, were seen operating.

The city atmosphere appeared to turn sombre after the verdict was pronounced. The few vehicles that were seen on the streets in the morning briskly disappeared after the verdict was announced.

The law enforcers had installed makeshift checkpoints in several places and monitored vehicular movement. Ordinary people and students appearing for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and equivalent exams and their guardians suffered due to the transport crisis and the tight security arrangements.

Armed members of the Bangladesh Police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and other agencies guarded strategic points across the capital, especially Bakshibazar, where a special court delivered the graft case verdict.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out between police and BNP activists as Khaleda’s motorcade reached Kakrail. Police lobbed tear-gas shells, as BNP supporters hurled stones at the law enforcers.

The trouble spread to Kakrail just before Khaleda’s motorcade appeared there. Police used at least three tear-gas canisters to disperse BNP activists escorting the motorcade. A motorcycle was torched but police chased away the BNP activists.

Many feared that a face-off between the rival political parties was inevitable, as the ruling Awami League leaders had said they would be on the streets to assist the law enforcers in maintaining peace.

Ignoring the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) ban on processions, activists of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student affiliate of the ruling party, marched in the capital with bamboo sticks and held bike rallies in a show of strength against BNP activists in Aminbazar, Gabtoli, Mirpur, and Kazi Nazrul.

Earlier, the DMP had said that all rallies and processions would be banned from 4 am on Thursday until further notice.