Dhaka: Two members of the opposition BNP were shot dead today in clashes with the ruling Awami League supporters, prompting authorities to call out paramilitary forces to control the situation on the first anniversary of the controversial elections boycotted by the opposition.
"Clashes erupted as two processions of rival activists became face-to-face...The two activists from BNP have died instantly in gunshots," an eyewitness said.
Khaleda Zia, the chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) who had refused to participate in what she branded a "farce" election, remained cordoned off inside her Gulshan office here since Saturday night and security forces, including women police, were deployed outside the building.
Authorities overnight called out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops after BNP vowed to stage a nationwide protest defying a ban coinciding with the first anniversary of the January 5 elections.
BNP asked its leaders and activists to join a planned rally in front of its central office at Naya Paltan area, saying former prime minister Zia would join the protest.
But police in riot gears took positions in Naya paltan area to prevent their planned rally.
Witnesses said the intensified security vigil visibly kept away the BNP activists from gathering at the scene despite calls from the party's acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir to stage the rally "at any cost".
Witnesses said over a dozen sand laden trucks and water cannons were positioned afresh in front of the office since last night as Zia vowed to come out to join the rally.
"I will get out tomorrow (Monday) and I will hit the streets," Zia told a group of pro-BNP professional leaders who met her inside her office yesterday.
She told BBC Bangla service last night that her party would carry on rally as planned despite the ban on gatherings.
"Our programme is on...This illegal government has completely lost touch with the people. It's not just me, they've confined the whole nation," she said
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina described as "drama" Zia's move to stay in her office after announcing party's programme.
"She can certainly go home if she wishes," Hasina told a delegation of her party's youth wing yesterday.
Police yesterday issued an order banning all rallies in the capital "until further order" to evade law and order situation as the ruling Awami League too was scheduled to stage rallies coinciding with the anniversary.
Amid the heightening tensions, all Dhaka-bound buses and ferries from across the country were grounded, leaving hundreds and thousands of passengers in trouble.
At least seven vehicles were torched in the capital and Mymensingh yesterday by protesters, leaving 10 people injured.