Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders have alleged that police are arresting BNP leaders and activists in Sylhet ahead of the city corporation elections.
BNP claimed that so far the police have arrested at least 17 of its activists and have also searched the homes of some leaders and activists only to harass them.
The party has already announced that it won’t take part in the city corporation election.
Ariful Haque Chowdhury, who was elected mayor in the last two city corporation elections in Sylhet as the BNP candidate, has called for a rally on 20 May where he would announce whether or not he will contest in the upcoming election as an independent candidate.
Ariful announced the rally on Monday, and since then the police have started capturing BNP leaders and activists known to be close to Ariful.
Sylhet metropolitan BNP president Nasim Hossain told Prothom Alo, “BNP won’t contest in the election. Still, the police have started its arrest drive ahead of the city corporation election. They are nabbing BNP leaders and activists and showing them arrest on new cases. All because Ariful has declared that he will disclose his decision over the city election on 20 May. Police are trying to cause panic so that the people don’t attend the rally.”
However, the police are denying such allegations, saying they are just doing their routine work.
Sylhet Metropolitan Police additional deputy commissioner (media) Sudeep Das told Prothom Alo that the police are making arrests on old case warrants. On Tuesday, eight were arrested for obstructing government work and beating up police members. He said that the police are not harassing anyone innocent and that BNP’s allegation isn’t true.
23 May is the last day to submit the nomination paper for the election. The electoral symbols will be distributed on 1 June. The election will take place on 21 June.
UK Awami League’s joint general secretary Md Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury has been named as Awami League’s candidate.
BNP leaders have said that on Tuesday, the police captured eight Chhatra Dal and Jubo Dal activists from a procession. That very night the police filed a case at Kotowali police station against unknown 150-200 for obstructing official government work and assaulting police officers with an intention to kill. The captured eight were later shown arrest in that case.
BNP leaders have also said that in the past four days, the police have captured nine more Chhatra Dal and Jubo Dal activists and showed them arrest in old cases.
The police are also searching the houses and businesses of BNP leaders just to harass them, claimed the party. Many BNP activists in Sylhet have fled their homes and living elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Sylhet city BNP slammed the arbitrary and unjust arrest of leaders and activists. In a press release on Friday afternoon, the party said the police on Wednesday night unjustly arrested Shamim Majumder, former publicity secretary of city BNP; Najrul Islam, general secretary of Ward No 27, MA Lahin, joint general secretary of Ward No 3; Badrul Islam, member of Ward No 25; and Mirza Habib, former co-organising secretary of district Chhatra Dal.
The BNP also alleged that the police are harassing its leaders and activists through raids in their residences. A panic spread in the area as the cops are frequently detaining the BNP men, but are not admitting it initially. Sometimes later, the detained ones are being declared arrested.
Abdul Quayum Chowdhury, president of Sylhet district BNP, alleged that the police suddenly began arresting and filing new cases to foil the ongoing movement for restoring democracy.
The BNP declared not to join the election. Still, the police, being ordered by the government, are going to the residences of the BNP men and harassing them.
Later, Khandakar Abdul Muktadir, advisor to BNP chairperson, sent a statement to the media on Friday midnight demanding an end to arbitrary arrests and police harassment.
He said a conspiracy is on to trigger panic among the public by arresting the BNP men and harassing them in the name of raids, though the party declared to boycott all kinds of elections under the current regime.
A BNP leader close to Ariful Haque Chowdhury said there is a hearsay in the city that the outgoing mayor may compete in the election as an independent candidate and ensure his victory. Against such a backdrop, an environment of fear is being created to make the field empty so that no one can join the electoral campaign of Ariful Haque.
In conversation with Prothom Alo, Ariful Haque Chowdhury expressed concern over the arrest and alleged that fresh fictitious cases are being filed against the leaders and activists of BNP and its associate organisations, to mount pressure on them ahead of the city polls.
He also alleged that his close associates are selectively being harassed. He feared that this pressure would intensify with the course of time.