Thousands of people in seemingly endless processions surged into the Paltan ground in Dhaka on Saturday to witness the conclusion of the BNP-led alliance’s campaign for the elections to the ninth parliament, where the alliance supremo, Khaleda Zia, called for concerted efforts to build a prosperous Bangladesh.
Large and small processions from different parts of the city poured into the meeting venue, chanting slogans seeking vote for the alliance candidates, and carrying colourful banners, inscribed with the alliance candidates’ portraits, festoons with black and white posters, paddy sheaf, and large replicas of scales, the polls symbol of the BNP’s major ally, Jamaat-e-Islami.
Stringent security measures were taken at the venue where all the people entering the ground were frisked by the security personnel. The four-layer security arrangements ranged from manual checking to scanning by the metal detector.
As many as 4,000 security personnel from the police, the Rapid Action Battalion, Armed Police Battalion, Ansars, Presidential Guard Regiment, Special Security Force and the Dog Squad were deployed in and around the venue as streams of masses engulfed the surrounding areas of Motijheel, Zero Point, Purana Paltan and Gulistan during the rally. A team of strategic weapon and tactics of the detective branch of police was put on alert.
Although there was a bullet-proof screen in front of Khaleda Zia when she took her seat on the stage, there was no such screen before her when she was addressing the rally from the podium. Party sources said the BNP chief was not interested in addressing people from behind a bullet-proof screen.
About a dozen members of the special security force cordoned off Khaleda, forming a human shield from three sides.
The large front of the back-screen was inscribed with the BNP’s election theme ‘save the country, save the people’ along with a large portrait of Ziaur Rahman, the founder of the party.
The audience spreading from the Dainik Bangla crossing to the Bangabandhu Avenue alongside the Paltan ground got startled for a few seconds when Khaleda apologised for mistakes during her immediate past regime but then burst into a thunderous applause appreciating her attitude.
‘She has done it! This confession will change the situation,’ said Abdul Alim of Mirpur, standing in front of the Jiban Bima Bhaban.
Youngsters including boys and girls also responded cheerfully when she sought their votes as a mother and assured them of taking initiatives to build a prosperous future for them.