Leaders and activists of the 20-party alliance led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are leaving their homes and localities in ever larger numbers as a countrywide crackdown by joint forces detained at least 3,000 of them since Friday, BNP leaders alleged on Thursday.
The alliance sources put the number of arrested leaders and activists at 5,000 or more as, what they said, was the government's efforts to create a 'peaceful' conditions before local elections due later next month, on party-basis for a first time in the country.
They said the joint forces' drive has multiple purposes, including to obstruct BNP National Councils due in December and thwart the process to reorganise and restructure BNP, led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia.
The government and law enforcers say the crackdown is intended to arrest criminals and law -breakers to reinforce peace and democracy - and prevent violence and anarchy.Many "opposition" leaders and activists are also fleeing away to avoid arrest, torture and persecution in custody, alliance leaders said. Before the latest crackdown began, dozens of senior BNP leaders and hundreds of activists were already put into jails in cases of violence, killing, arson and vandalism during the first half of this year. BNP says most of the charges are false and politically motivated.
Law enforcers are carrying out the "Special drive" in 32 districts and five metropolitan areas. Meanwhile, the local administration with the help of law enforcers has obstructed holding of the party councils at district levels - which is crucial to re-organise the BNP, party insiders say.
Under these circumstances, it will be difficult for BNP and its alliance partners to "contest, field candidates, campaign for them and also assign polling agents," they claimed.
Nazrul Islam Khan, a BNP Standing Committee member, alleged that the government is 'filing false cases' against BNP leaders and activists as suppressive measures against them.
"There's a rule in playing cards ? if you have no other suitable card you can play the colour. The government has also taken the same tactics as it's implicating our leaders and activists in false cases having failed to get any other option to subdue them," he said. Mashiur Rahman, Khulna Divisional Organising Secretary of BNP, told this correspondent that widespread panic has gripped his area as hundreds of opposition leaders and activists are being arrested by the members of the joint forces almost every day.
"Sometimes they ransacked houses of our leaders. So it will be too difficult for the opposition to contest the upcoming polls in such a situation," he added.
Hafizur Rahman, a Jamaat leader of Terokhada in Khulna and the municipality Mayor aspirant, told the Daily Observer, "After imprisonment for a long time, I still cannot stay in my house. The law enforcers harass my family members including my aged parents and once ransacked my house when they did not find me there."