Dhaka, February 8: Security has been beefed up around government and non-governmental establishments, including the Secretariat, the parliament, Bangladesh Bank, major prisons, different power plants and local government offices, across the country ahead of the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police have also banned carrying of all types of arms, ammunition, explosives, sharp weapons and sticks in the port city today to avert any untoward incident centring the verdict in the graft case file by the Anti-Corruption Commission nearly a decade ago. Security was also increased at Lohagara, Banshkhali, Sitakunda and Satkania upazilas in the district.
The verdict is set to be delivered by Dhaka’s Fifth Special Judge’s Court today in the case against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, her eldest son BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said: “We have taken extra security measures as we have information that subversive activities may occur over the verdict.”
From 6pm Wednesday, with police remaining on high alert, the government rolled out 43 platoons of BGB in the capital and 14 other districts. Thirty-six other platoons were also on standby for deployment in Dhaka and nine other districts, according to a spokesperson of the paramilitary force.
Apart from strengthening security at all the entrances – including Gabtoli, Jatrabari and Uttara – of Dhaka, law enforcement agencies were seen conducting searches on vehicles and people on the city streets.
Spot visits found that police had set up 13 check posts on the seven entrances of the capital over the past two days.
All vehicles, vessels and trains were also being searched on the highways, waterways and railways, respectively, in a bid to prevent any acts of sabotage over the verdict, which could take away Khaleda’s chance to contest in the next national election if she is convicted.
Kamalapur railway police OC Yasin Faruq and Sadarghat river police OC Abdur Razzak both told the Dhaka Tribune that they were searching all passengers either leaving or coming into Dhaka at every stations and terminals.“We are trying to ensure that no one can enter or leave Dhaka with any explosives or weapons to carry out acts of sabotage,” they said.
Meanwhile, a number of schools and colleges on Wednesday declared that they would remain closed today over security concerns anticipating violence over the graft case verdict.A parent of a private school student said: “We are worried. We are not feeling secure enough to send our child to school.”
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Javed Patwari told reporters on Wednesday: “If any person or group tries to create chaos, they will face tough action from the police.” Urging the people not to pay attention to rumours, he said: “If anyone sees any trouble, just call 999.”
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Wednesday told reporters that measures against Khaleda Zia would be taken as per the jail code, if she was convicted in the corruption case.Asked where the BNP chief would be kept if she was convicted; he said he did not know what the verdict would have in store for Khaleda. “But steps will be taken in line with the court’s judgment.”
“The prisons are, however, always ready for such situation. If she is convicted, she will be kept in jail like a former prime minister should be following the jail code. But it’s also a matter of the prison authorities to decide where she would be kept.”
Sources said security surrounding the special court at Dhaka’s Bakshibazar which would deliver the verdict was being tightened, while prison authorities were making preparations to welcome Khaleda.
Meanwhile, bus owners have said that their vehicles would operate as usual in various inter-city and inter-district routes.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, said they have also asked the drivers and their assistants to keep fire extinguishing materials on board in case there are arson attacks.
He said transport workers would also remain vigilant at all bus terminals around the country to prevent any attempt to vandalize or sabotage their vehicles.
However, according to various sources, buses on long-distance routes may not run in an attempt to prevent BNP leaders and activists from travelling to Dhaka from different districts.