Oct 19 2013, 11:10am CDT | by IANS
Dhaka, Oct 19 — Police have imposed an indefinite ban on meetings, processions and rallies here from Sunday morning, five days ahead of an anti-government rally to demand a non-party caretaker system.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Saturday slapped the ban from 6 a.m. Sunday which is to remain in place until further orders are issued, Xinhua reported, citing a police spokeperson.
"All indoor and outdoor meetings, rallies and human chains will be banned for an indefinite period in the capital city from Sunday morning to avoid any untoward situation," police spokesperson Monirul Islam said in a press briefing here.
The main opposition party described the move as an attempt to mute dissenting voices.
"This is how the government is taking away people's democratic rights to speak and protest," said Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, spokesperson for former prime minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The BNP announced its anti-government rally Oct 25. Following the main opposition party's announcement, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) party reportedly also decided to hit the streets of Dhaka on the same day, raising fears of violence.
The BNP has asked Hasina's AL to bring back the caretaker system, or else, it won't participate in the next polls slated for early 2014 because it fears an election without the caretaker government will not be free and fair.
Bangladesh's parliament is due to expire Jan 24 next year and polls should be held within 90 days before the expiry of parliament.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Friday proposed an all-party government be set up to hold general elections in the country.
Although Hasina invited the main opposition party to nominate its lawmakers to be included in the cabinet of the poll-time government, she did not specify the size of the cabinet and its scope of work or who would head the cabinet.
In his initial reaction, the BNP spokesman Alamgir said his party would come up with its formal reaction after Khaleda sits with her party leaders Saturday night to discuss the latest development.
Since June 2011 when Bangladesh parliament abolished the non-party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance has been waging mass protests pushing for the reinstatement of the provision.
The scrapped provision mandated an elected government to transfer power to a non-partisan caretaker administration to oversee a new parliamentary election.
The caretaker government system was institutionalised through the 13th amendment to the constitution in 1996 by then BNP government under pressure from main opposition AL.
The caretaker government, the main objective of which is to create such an environment in which an election can be held in a free and fair manner, has successfully held the elections of 1996, 2001 and 2008.
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