Thousands of BNP activists and leaders on Saturday gathered in Rangpur city to join an anti-government rally amid allegations of using the transport owners and workers by the government to enforce a strike in the region.
A 36-hour transport strike began on Friday morning, but the opposition party is all set to hold its fourth divisional rally in Rangpur.
But the ruling party in Rangpur has denied any involvement with the transport strike.
Party leaders and activists have erected a stage at the Rangpur Collector Eidgah ground where the rally is scheduled to begin at 2pm on Saturday.
Several thousand leaders and activists of BNP and its associate bodies from different districts under the division started reaching rally venue from Friday afternoon as they used alternative modes of transport.
Though bus communication remained halted between Rangpur and the rest of the country since Friday morning, BNP activists from eight nearby districts were seen coming to different areas adjacent to the city by small vehicles like human haulers, auto rickshaws, three-wheelers, motorbikes, and micro-buses a day before the rally.
Talking to UNB, a number of BNP activists said they took position in Rangpur city and its adjacent areas in advance to avert possible obstruction and harassment by their ruling party counterparts and law enforcers on Saturday.
Only a few buses from Dhaka came to Rangpur on Friday, but no bus was seen leaving the Rangpur bus terminal for any destination since morning, causing serious suffering to commuters. Inter-district bus services to and from Rangpur also remained halted due to the strike. The buses from the other districts could not enter Rangpur since Friday morning.
Rangpur District Motor Owners’ Association has enforced the transport strike from 6am Friday to 6pm Saturday, demanding a ban on illegal vehicles, including three-wheelers, on the highway and an end to “administrative harassment.”
BNP vice chairman Dr AZM Zahid Hossain alleged that the strike was enforced only to prevent people from joining their party’s rally.
He told BNP that lakhs of people from eight districts under the Rangpur division will join Saturday’s rally braving the transport strike and all other barriers created by the ruling party.
A similar strike was also enforced ahead of BNP’s divisional rally in Khulna last week, but thousands of party leaders and activists participated in the programme overcoming the obstacles.
As part of its move to continue the pace of its ongoing movement, the BNP on September 27 announced a programmes of a series of public rallies in 10 divisional cities.
BNP senior leaders, including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and some standing committee members, are expected to address the rally.
The organisers said the rally is meant to denounce the price hike of daily essentials and fuels, the death of five party men in previous police action in Bhola, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, and Jashore, and to ensure the freedom of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The BNP has long been demanding that the next general election be held under a caretaker government, not under any political government–a demand sharply rejected by the ruling Awami League as the constitution does not allow it to happen.
Saturday’s rally will be the fourth one by the BNP at the divisional level as the first one was held in Chattogram, the second one in Mymensingh and the third one in Khulna.
Similar rallies have been planned in other divisional headquarters to drum up support in the run-up to the next election expected to be held late next year or in early 2024.
The BNP will conclude the divisional rallies through a mass gathering in Dhaka city on December 10.