The first spell of the BNP's agitation programmes over the jailing of its Chairperson Khaleda Zia came to an end yesterday with the staging of token hunger strikes across the country.
In the capital, party leaders and activists broke the hunger strike in front of the Jatiya Press Club at 1:00pm, three hours ahead of schedule upon request from law enforcers.
Meanwhile, seven days have passed since the jailing of Khaleda, but her lawyers are yet to get the certified copy of the special court's verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
Court sources said the copy might be supplied today. The lawyers neither can file an appeal nor can lodge a bail petition for Khaleda with the High Court without having the certified copy.
BNP sources said it was drawing up plans to go for a mass signature campaign, submitting memorandums to the deputy commissioners of districts and holding a mammoth rally in the capital to press home the demand to free Khaleda.
Earlier, BNP leaders and activists brought out processions on Friday, staged demonstrations on Saturday, formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club on Monday and staged a sit-in in front of the party's Nayapaltan central office on Tuesday protesting the five-year prison sentence of the party chief.
Hundreds of BNP leaders and activists began the hunger strike at 10:00am yesterday in presence of a large number of law enforcers.
Addressing the programme, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the party would continue its movement until the government released Khaleda Zia.
He demanded the government free the former prime minister immediately. He also called upon the government to stop “repression on the BNP men”.
Later, the BNP men broke their hunger strike by drinking water provided by former Dhaka University vice-chancellor Prof Emajuddin Ahmed.
Senior BNP leaders Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Moudud Ahmed, Mirza Abbas, Nazrul Islam Khan and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, among others, joined the hunger strike.
Sources at the BNP said police requested party leaders to end the hunger strike ahead of schedule to ease sufferings of people as the crowd spilled over into the street.
Different district and city units of the BNP also organised hunger strikes yesterday as part of the party's countrywide protest programme.
COURT REJECTS PETITION
A Dhaka court yesterday refused to accept a petition seeking its order to show the BNP chief arrested in a case over allegedly undermining Bangladesh's national flag and map.
Metropolitan Magistrate Md Ahsan Habib passed the order finding no grounds to entertain the petition as Khaleda is now behind bars in a graft case.
The court also directed the officer-in-charge of Gulshan Police Station to submit by March 14 the report on the execution of an arrest warrant issued against Khaleda by it earlier.
Earlier in the day, AB Siddique, president of Bangladesh Jananetri Parishad, a pro-Awami League organisation, submitted the petition before the court.
Siddique in the petition said Khaleda did not appear before the court and seek bail although an arrest order was issued against her in connection with the case on October 12 last year.
The metropolitan magistrate had issued the arrest warrant for the BNP chief as she failed to appear before the court.
Siddique had filed the case with the court on November 3, 2016, accusing Khaleda and her late husband Ziaur Rahman of undermining the country's map and national flag.
Dropping Zia's name from the case as he is dead, investigation officer of the case submitted the probe report to the court on February 25 last year.
'KHALEDA GETTING FACILITIES'
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday said the BNP chairperson was provided with all the facilities in line with the Jail Code.
The BNP chief has been kept in a new building which was used as a day care centre, the minister told reporters after attending a programme in the capital's Agargaon marking the 23rd founding anniversary of Bangladesh Coast Guard.
“As the building was part of a central jail, it can in no way be unsafe,” he added.
HOUSE HELP ASSISTS KHALEDA
Khaleda Zia was getting assistance from her house help Mosammat Fatema from yesterday.
Fatema was taken to the prison cell yesterday afternoon, Jahangir Kabir, senior jail superintendent of Dhaka Central Jail, told The Daily Star.
On February 11, a special court directed the jail authorities to provide Khaleda with first-class division in line with the jail code and to allow her house help to stay with her in jail.
The BNP chief landed in jail on February 8.