Reported on: April 29, 2012 09:05 AM
Reported in: National
Dhaka, Apr 29 (UNB) - Bomb blasts, vandalism of vehicles by pickets and detention of opposition activists marked the first day of the second spell of the nationwide daylong hartal enforced by the 18-party alliance on Sunday.
The daylong shutdown disrupted the normal life, inflicting sufferings on people, especially the poor who depend on daily earnings to support their families, and pushing up the prices of essentials.
Traffic on the city streets was even thinner compared to the previous April 22-24 hartal. Schools were closed while most shops kept their shutters down.
But the government offices remained opened as usual. The office-goers had to face serious problems to reach their workplaces because of shortage of vehicles. No long-distance bus left the city since morning. However, train and launch services were normal.
The BNP-led 18-party alliance called the dawn-to-dusk hartal for Sunday and Monday as the government has failed to rescue BNP organising secretary and ex-MP Ilias Ali and his driver, Ansar Ali, by Saturday, a deadline set earlier by BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia.
Meanwhile, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a press briefing on the countrywide daylong shutdown on Sunday claimed that 512 leaders and workers of BNP and its front and associate organisations were injured during the hartal hours.
Besides, 455 opposition activists were detained across the country, he added.
According to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), 17 pickets were arrested, four vehicles damaged, 14 crude bombs exploded in the capital during the hartal hours.
UNB correspondents covering the general strike in the capital report that the pro-hartal activists exploded two homemade bombs near Home Ministry in the afternoon, five homemade bombs at Mohakhali Crossing, five at Mugda-Bishwa Road, another five at Mirpur Section 1, two at Nayapalatn and one at Malibagh.
All the bombs went off between 8 am and 4pm.
Two crude bombs were hurled at the Home Ministry inside the Secretariat during the hartal at about 3:50 pm from the GPO corner, one causing damages to a parked car.
A Bomb Disposal Unit of the Detective Branch (DB) Police led by senior commissioner Sanwar Hossain visited the spot.
Later, Sanwar told reporters that one bomb hit the boundary wall of the Secretariat while another bomb, which landed 12 feet inside the boundary, damaged a parked car of an Ansar official.
He said the bombs were homemade with explosive materials in ‘jarda containers’ used in 98 percent incidents of crude bomb blasts.
DMP joint commissioner (operation) Ibrahim Qashemi said the security of the Secretariat will be increased further. Those who are behind the bomb blasts must be tracked down.
Home Minister Shahara Khatun and State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Huq Tuku were in their respective offices when the bomb blasts occurred.
Picketers also stoned and damaged 5-6 trucks at Jatrabari at 7:30am and several passenger buses at Shaheenbagh in Tejgaon.
Five people were arrested from a procession brought out by Shibir workers near Kajla Bridge at about 7 am.
Police obstructed BNP MPs who tried to bring out a procession in Sangsad Bhaban area in the morning.
Witnesses said police detained BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi and six workers when they tried to bring out a procession from BNP central office, defying the police obstruction in the first hour of the hartal. Later, they were released but two female activists were seen being dragged into a police van.
Riot police were posted at different important points in the capital. Like the previous spell of hartal, law enforcers kept the BNP central office at Nayapaltan cordoned off since the morning. No BNP leader and activist were allowed to enter the office.
In Khulna, two cops and 10 hartal supporters were injured as police clashed with pro-hartal activists in front of Liberty Cinema Hall in the city on Sunday morning. Police arrested 12 activists from the different parts of the district.
Pro-hartal activists blasted a bomb behind Sundarban College in the city at about 10:15 am, creating panic in the area. Besides, two easy-bikes were damaged in Rupsha area of the city by pickets.
BNP could not bring out any procession from their party office as police cordoned off their office from early in the morning. But processions were brought out in support of the hartal from Alia Madrasah, Sundarban College, Moylapota and Khalishpur areas of the city.
In Rajshahi, at least 10 people were injured in a clash between police and picket in the city during the hartal hours. The clash ensued as police tried to resist a procession of opposition activists in support of the hartal in the city.
In Natore, pro-hartal activists torched a bus during the hartal hours in front of Giti Cinema Hall at Chakrampur in the town on Sunday morning.
The district unit of BNP brought out a procession in support of the hartal in the town in the morning.
In Narayanganj, five BNP activists were injured as police charged batons on them when they brought out a procession in support of the hartal in DIT Commercial area in the town. Police also detained two BNP activists from the spot.
In Noakhali, police arrested 18 pickets from different parts of the districts during the hartal hours. Besides, five pick-up vans, including one of police, were damaged by the pro-hartal activists.
In Brahmanbaria, three people, including a pick-up van driver, were injured in an attack by hartal supporters in Sarail upazila. Police also arrested a BNP activist.
In Thakurgaon, police arrested four hartal supporters in the district during the hartal hours.
In Kurigram, seven opposition men were detained by police as they tried to enforce hartal in the district.
In Satkhira, police arrested a Jubo Dal leader Milon Sing, 32, from New Market area in the town during hartal.
Former MP and BNP secretary M Ilias Ali and his driver Ansar Ali went missing on April 17 midnight from the capital.
Ilias Ali's wife Tahsina Rushdir said her husband left their Banani residence on that night and has been missing since then along with his driver. His car, with its doors open, was found abandoned on a street near his Banani residence early Wednesday.
BNP blames the ruling party men and security agencies for the mysterious disappearance’ of Ilias and his driver. But the government denies the allegation.
Earlier, the main opposition enforced hartal for three days on the trot on April 22-24 to press for the return of Ilias.
The party also held countrywide demonstrations on Thursday and today (Saturday).
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Tuesday announced the demonstration programmes. She had also threatened to wage tougher programmes if Ilias Ali and his driver were not retuned unharmed to their families by April 28.
The ultimatum came after the BNP enforced hartal for three straight days, demanding the return of Ilias Ali and his driver, Ansar Ali.