November 7, 2023
DHAKA – Following the events of October 28, the government has intensified its clampdown on the BNP, and is reportedly planning even harsher actions in the coming days. According to law enforcement officials, at least 2,172 BNP leaders and activists have been arrested under 89 cases filed with 32 police stations under the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, vice-chairmen Shahjahan Omar and Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, and Organising Secretary Syed Emran Saleh Prince. Over 9,000 activists have been arrested countrywide since the rally, with 1,600 to 1,700 detained every day in connection with various crimes such as arson, drugs, theft, etc. The Awami League would have us believe that the arrests are not “political,” but the alarming number of cases and the swiftness with which BNP activists have been apprehended suggest a different story.
We have noted with increasing alarm how the ruling party has used various state machineries to harass and intimidate opposition leaders and activists in the past, foremost among which has been the filing of “gayebi mamla,” or ghost cases, against them. We have also reported on how heightened activities are taking place at a number of courts in Dhaka, with hearings of opposition activists running beyond normal court hours, extending till about 8-8:30pm almost every day. It appears that the ruling party is now capitalising on the chaos and violence on October 28 to accelerate its tried-and-tested method of harassing the opposition. As per our reports, law enforcement agencies are making a list of “troublemakers” down to the grassroots and gearing up for more arrests. Alarmingly, in some cases, law enforcers have even detained and harassed family members, which is equally concerning.
While we do not condone the violence, arson attacks and loss of human lives, it is imperative that we call for impartial investigations into them. Mass detention of opposition activists at a time when the ruling party needs to prove its commitment to ensuring free, fair and inclusive elections does the exact opposite. It only proves BNP’s point that the ruling party and the state have become inseparable, and hence any election held under the current government is bound to be questionable. Furthermore, the targeted arrests of BNP’s top brass foreclose any possibility of a compromise in the near future, pushing the country towards greater uncertainty. It leaves thousands of BNP activists, who already have their backs against the wall, without proper guidance, which can make them increasingly more reckless.
Under the circumstances, the ruling party has declared that it will do “whatever is required if anyone tries to resist the election.” We call upon it to see reason—for the greater good of the nation—and abandon its politics of confrontation. Going forward, the goal must be to reduce tensions and resolve political differences through peaceful methods.