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Hartal draws poor response At least 100 pickets held

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Staff Reporter
The BNP-led 20-party opposition alliance’s first hartal after the January-5 election failed to draw any strong public response on Monday as the normal life was largely unaffected, except a few sporadic clashes between pro-hartal activists and police in the capital and elsewhere.
According to reports, at least 100 hartal pickets were arrested and some vehicles damaged across the country during the countrywide daylong shutdown.
Unlike any other shutdown program of the opposition, a very small number of the incidents of damaging and torching vehicles and blasting crude bombs were reported in the capital or elsewhere in the country during the shutdown.
The BNP alliance enforced the general strike, the first after the January-5 election, at 6am that ended at 6pm protesting the 16th constitutional amendment empowering parliament to remove Supreme Court judges for ‘misconduct’ and ‘incapacity’.
In the capital’s Sabujbagh, a youth Jony, 23, was shot and injured as police opened fire on a procession of pro-hartal activists in the morning. Police also arrested six pickets from the spot.
Jony, who claimed that he has no involvement with any political party, was admitted to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.
Hartal supporters brought out a procession in the city’s Shahabagh area around 6:25 am. Later, they turned violent and vandalised 4-5 vehicles in the area. Police arrested three pickets from there.
Incidents of chase and counter-chase between police and hartal supporters were reported from different parts of the city, including Lalbagh, Rampura, Moghbazar, Shahjadpur, Shantinagar, Shyamoly, Mohakhali, and Nippon Goli in Tejgaon Industrial area, Indira Road, Taltala Market in Khilgaon and Rayerbagh.
The presence of BNP’s alliance partners, including Jamaat, was very thin on the city streets.
The ruling party men were more active than the opposition’s taking out with anti-hartal processions at most important points of the city.
Meanwhile, pro-BNP-Jamaat lawyers also boycotted the Supreme Court as part of their countrywide protest programme demanding that the 16th constitutional amendment be repealed.
Vehicular movement in the city was almost normal as police forces were deployed at important points to fend off any untoward situation. A large number of law enforcers were deployed around BNP's Nayapaltan central office.
Addressing a press briefing at the party’s central office about the hartal, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed that police arrested over 283 opposition activists across the country during the hartal hours, while more than 32 others injured in police firings or attacks by law enforcers and ‘ruling party cadres’.
He claimed people with their spontaneous participation made the hartal a success.
Violent incidents like vandalising of vehicles, clashes between hartal pickets and police and ruling party activists and arrest of opposition leaders and activists were also reported from a number of districts, including Chittagong, Syleht, Chandpur, Chuadanga Jhenidah, Satkhira, Gazipur and Narail.
Mirza Fakhrul on Saturday announced the 20-party’s shutdown programme at a press briefing at BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office.
Parliament on September 17 passed the much-talked-about ‘Constitution (16th Amendment) Bill, 2014’ without any opposition establishing its power to remove Supreme Court judges.
Though BNP urged the President not to sign the bill into a law and send it back to parliament for further review, Abdul Hamid on Monday assented to it.
Earlier in the day, addressing a press briefing BNP joint secretary general M Shajahan urged President Abdul Hamid to refrain from assenting to the 16th Amendment Bill and send it back to parliament for its reconsideration.