Chances of violent confrontation have risen sharply as the BNP and the Awami League gear up to showcase their political might in response to the anticipated February 8 verdict in the corruption case against Khaleda Zia.
The war footing of Bangladesh’s largest political parties have put Dhaka residents in a pinch, forcing many to reschedule their plans.
Sources say both parties have plans to organize massive public gatherings in Dhaka on February 8 when a court is scheduled to deliver a verdict in Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.
Khaleda’s BNP and her allies sat out the last general election and have largely been absent on the streets for the last several years. BNP insiders say they have already started mobilizing their activists to use this opportunity to unite their supporters and occupy the streets.
Meanwhile, the ruling Awami League is taking measures to thwart the BNP’s plan. It has ordered its grassroots leaders to undertake preparations to come out on the streets in greater numbers on February 8.
Senior Awami League leaders and policymakers have said that they would not “allow the BNP to create unrest on the streets,” hinting at a hardline approach to thwart Khaleda’s supporters.
More than 500 BNP leaders and activists have been arrested by law enforcement agencies ahead of the verdict.
The simmering tension has given rise to fear among the general people.
Sadia Afreen, the mother of an SSC examinee, said she feared the situation could turn violent like 2014 and would jeopardize her child’s future.
“My daughter has an exam on February 8. We will have no choice but to force her to skip the examination if the situation worsens,” she said. “This will greatly harm her educational career but we do not want our child to be traumatized because of political violence.”
Dozens of people interviewed for this article shared a common fear and concern about what could happen on that day. Mohammad Hamid, a rickshaw puller from Gaibandha, said he was returning home within a day or two to avoid getting caught in the violence. “I fear something bad is going to happen,” he said.
Many, like businessperson Rokeya Begum, have been forced to rearrange their plans. She and her two children had an appointment with a doctor in Koltaka on February 9.
“We initially planned to travel by road on February 8 but after much deliberation, we have decided to go there on February 6 fearing that the situation will worsen from February 7,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.