Announced to force the government to cancel January 5 elections

Dhaka was tense as the opposition combine tried in vain to organise its showdown in the capital to force the government to cancel the January 5 parliamentary election.

Having failed to defy the ban on the Dhaka march, which opposition leader Khaleda Zia vowed to undertake ‘at all cost’, she extended her proposed ‘March for Democracy’ till Monday. She made the announcement at her Gulshan residence where she virtually remained confined since the authorities denied permission to hold the march on ground of ‘public security’.

“The programme to restore democracy will go on…either today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, the programme will continue,” she told journalists.

After waiting for almost an hour in her car to leave for Naya Paltan party headquarters, where she was to address the Dhaka Marchers, an angry Khaleda Zia reacted sharply before the mediapersons : “This government is illegal and undemocratic.”

Particularly furious with a woman security staff member, apparently hailing from Gopalganj, the district of Sheikh Hasina’s ancestral home, she shouted : “We will change the name of Gopalganj. Gopalganj will not exist any longer.”

Dhaka’s streets were almost empty despite Ms. Zia’s call with not even the opposition activists seen in front of the heavily-cordoned BNP’s Naya Paltan headquarters.

To the contrary, the activists of the ruling Awami League and its front organisations had taken over the streets of the capital to thwart what they termed “destructive politics” of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.

Ruling party men, including elderly freedom fighters of 1971 liberation war, had mobilised in hundreds in almost all points of Dhaka with militant processions vowing to resist the “evil design” of the “anti-liberation Jamaat” and its patron, the BNP. They also entered Supreme Court premises and chased the lawyers supporting the BNP and Jamaat demonstrating there in support of the opposition march.

The cadres of the Jamaat-e-Islami clashed with police in the city’s Malibagh area where a youth was killed after a stray bullet hit him. One railway policeman was bombed to death by the opposition supporters at the Dhaka’s main Kamalapur railway station. The ruling Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam has described opposition’s Dhaka March a failure. “There is no participation of people in it,” he said.

At least six people were injured when the BNP-Jamaat activists clashed with police in Noakhali town.