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Khaleda Zia asks opposition to defy ban on 'march for democracy'

Friday, 27 December 2013 - 7:18pm IST | Agency: PTI

BNP chief Khaleda Zia today asked opposition leaders and activists to defy a ban on a planned march on Dhaka, demanding scrapping of the January 5 polls amid deepening political impasse in Bangladesh.

"I hope you will join our gathering, and defy all the obstacles that are being placed in our way, so that we can save democracy," Zia said in a video message shortly after police banned the rally on Sunday dubbed as "march for democracy". "You will carry on with the movement until the fall of the government even if I cannot stay beside you," Zia said.

"The opposition has been denied permission," police spokesman Masudur Rahman told reporters, citing fears of security breaches in the capital as reasons for the denial of permission.

Zia, earlier this week, asked the people to march towards Dhaka on December 29 from all over the country to "protect democracy".

"This march will be historic, we have named it as 'march for democracy'...I urge all able bodied countrymen cutting across their affiliation, religion and class to join the rally on December 29," Zia said.

She demanded the controversial January 5 polls plan to be shelved fearing "it could be last nail to the coffin of democracy". Zia accused her arch-rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of "killing democracy to consolidate power for ever".

The government has vowed to resist the march, saying it was a plan to expose the country to total anarchy.

"We will not allow her to create anarchy," Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, state minister for law, told reporters yesterday.

Law enforcement agencies have laid a siege around Zia's residence. Police in riot gear have taken positions around Zia's house, barring party activists and visitors' entry into her house since Wednesday night.

Earlier, a policeman was killed after suspected BNP activists and members of its ally Jamaat-e-Islami hurled a bomb on a police van. Eight others were injured in the attack in northwestern Rajshahi.

The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance is spearheading a fierce campaign for elections to be held under a non-party caretaker government with an "acceptable person" as its head replacing Prime Minister Hasina and have demanded shelving of the January 5 polls.

The violence has escalated since the opposition alliance refused to take part in the elections after Hasina spurned its demands to quit and install a neutral caretaker government to oversee the elections.

The government last week called in more paramilitary forces and police to contain the raging violence that has claimed around 130 lives since October.

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