Top BNP leaders go into hiding amid lawsuits and arrests

Many leaders and activists have been arrested in new cases while the remaining ones go into hiding.Prothom Alo file phto

Three compartments of the Jamuna Express were torched after miscreants set fire to the train near the Sarishabari railway station in Jamalpur on 18 November midnight. Following the incident, the assistant station master filed a case accusing almost all important leaders of BNP and its four associate bodies’ Jamaalpur district and Sadar and Sarishabari upazila units.

As the leaders of BNP, Chhatra Dal, Jubo Dal, Swechchhasebak Dal, Krishak Dal and Matshajibi Dal went into hiding, the Jamalpur district has been left almost without any BNP elements.

The situations across the country is more or less similar to the situation in Jamalpur district, and such a situation arose since the grand rally of BNP was foiled in face of police operations in Dhaka on 28 October. Many leaders and activists have been arrested in new lawsuits while the remaining ones have gone into hiding.

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has been ill for quite some time and currently is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Dhaka since being released from jail on an executive order. Acting chairman Tarique Rahman, who is convicted in several cases, has been in the UK for one and a half decades. Twenty top leaders of the party including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir are behind bars now.

There are more than 600 leaders holding the top positions as president/convenor and general secretary/member secretary of BNP, Jubo Dal, Chhatra Dal and Swechchhasebak Dal at district and city levels across the country. According to the reports sent by Prothom Alo correspondents, 85 leaders holding the top positions of various units of BNP and its three associated bodies have already been arrested, 386 leaders are in hiding, while 149 leaders, according to local sources, are hardly seen in their areas and mostly stay away from home.

Among them, five top leaders of Dhaka city north unit including convener Amanullah Aman and member secretary Aminul Haque, Dhaka city south unit member secretary Rafiqul Islam and acting member secretary Tanvir Hasan and three joint conveners have been arrested while Jubo Dal general secretary Abdul Monaim has already been placed behind bars.

More than 410 leaders and activists, according to BNP, were arrested across the country in the last 24 hours until Thursday afternoon, and 17 more lawsuits were filed on Thursday. According to the BNP central office, a total of 15,600 leaders and activists have been arrested so far centering the BNP’s grand rally held in Naya Paltan on 28 October, and 384 lawsuits were filed during this period.

According to reports sent by Prothom Alo correspondents, as of Thursday, 9,564 leaders and activists of BNP including 3,104 from Dhaka, have been arrested across the country since 28 October.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was arrested on 29 October, which followed the arrest of two standing committee members, Mirza Abbas and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, three vice-chairmen Shahjahan Omar, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and Shamsuzzaman, two joint secretaries general Syed Moazzem Hossain and Khairul Kabir, three organisational secretaries Emran Saleh, Ruhul Quddus Talukdar and Bilkis Jahan, who was released on bail recently, and central leader Zahir Uddin Swapan. Central leaders are no longer seen in the open.

BNP has been waging its movement peacefully for over a year demanding the parliamentary election under a neutral government, but police launched arrest drives against the party leaders and activists following the violence and clashes centring the 28 October rally. Since then, party leaders and activists have been operating the movement for for the ouster of the government and the cancellation of the election schedule from unknown locations. Vehicles were torched and vandalised, as well as clashes took place during these programmes.

BNP standing committee member Abdul Moyeen Khan said in a statement on Thursday the government plans to perform a farcical election, and his party wants to restore the democratic ideology by continuing the people’s movement.

BNP leaders alleged the government has launched a crackdown on BNP after 28 October to hold another one-sided election. Party leaders and activists were also sentenced in old cases. Lastly, 179 leaders and activists were sentenced in five cases in Dhaka on Thursday. BNP claimed already nine party men have given death penalty and more than 419 leaders and activists sentenced to different terms in 27 cases.

However, home minister Assaduzzaman Khan said on Thursday the number of lawsuits and arrests has dropped across the country centering the BNP 28 October rally. Replying to queries, he told the journalists that, before 28 October, about 2,000 people had been arrested and sent to jail across the country daily, as well as about 2,000 people were released daily, but the figure dropped to 1,816 after 28 October. A total of 565 cases were filed across the country before 28 October, and the figure dropped by 127 to 438 cases a day.

Case, arrest, hiding

Forty-seven cases were filed against leaders and activists of BNP in Jamalpur in less a year. More than 100 party men are behind bars in these cases. However, all leaders and activists have now gone into hiding since the fire incident at the Jamuna Express near the Sarishabari railway station, 35 kilometres away from Jamalpur town, on 18 November. Forty-one top leaders of the party including district BNP president Faridul Kabir Talukder and general secretary Shah Md Wares Ali Mamun were named in this case.

BNP’s Jamalpur unit organising secretary Shafiqul Islam Khan told Prothom Alo over mobile phone, “Even a crazy person won't believe that the party's top leaders set fire to the train at around 1:00am at a place which is 35 kilometres away from the district town. Jamalpur city unit president Liakat Ali was arrested in this incident, but he was at home at that night, and there is also CCTV footage.”

Police arrested BNP’s Tangail district unit general secretary Farhad Iqbal on 9 November in a case that police filed on allegations of creating panic by exploding crude bombs, as well as attacking police during shutdown (hartal). Twenty three people including Farhad Iqbal and BNP’s district unit president Hasanuzzaman Shahim were named and 12 unidentified people were made accused in this case. Since then, almost all leaders of BNP and its associate bodies have left the localities.

Cases were also filed in Mirzapur, Nagarpur, Kalihati, Delduar and Gopalpur areas. District BNP leaders said leaders and activists from district, upazila and union level cannot stay at home as police raid almost every night.

In Narsingdi, police filed at least 50 cases against more than 1,500 leaders and activists of BNP and its associate bodies in six upazilas recently. Sixty of them were behind bars. BNP’s district unit convener and central joint secretary general Khairul Kabir Khokon faced several cases in Dhaka and five lawsuits in Narsingdi.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir is from Thakurgaon district, and all leaders of BNP and its associated bodies have went t into hiding in the this district. In the meantime, police arrested the Jubo Dal secretary general.

BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi has been announcing the party programmes at virtual press conferences from unknown locations. He said on Thursday leaders and activists of BNP, its associate bodies and like-minded parties are being tortures and arrested arbitrarily.