Stealthily they cut off the electricity line to Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office early yesterday and stealthily they restored it later at night, leaving the BNP chief without power over 19 hours.
A team of Dhaka Electricity Supply Company (Desco) Limited snapped the supply at 2:42am apparently in a government move to mount pressure on the BNP chief to leave the office and call off the ongoing blockade.
Cable and internet, land/mobile phone connections were also disconnected in phases between 8:00am and 3:38pm yesterday, triggering huge criticism.
An infuriated Khaleda, who has been staying in that office since January 3, termed the measure the “worst kind of cruelty” and expressed her determination to continue the countrywide blockade, said one of her close aides. She also vowed not to leave the office.
Later around 10:20pm, Desco employees restored the power connection within five minutes keeping nearby street lights switched off.
After snapping and restoring power, the staff left the scene in the shortest possible time. But two of their men, however, could not dodge the media as they lagged behind their team-mates to get on their pick-up van.
Moksed Ali, a lineman who was involved in disconnecting the electricity supply, told the media that they have conducted the drive following directives from Gulshan police.
Another staff, who was involved in the restoration, just said: “On instructions of higher authorities, we have restored the line.” He denied disclosing his name and designation.
However, cable, internet and phone lines to the office remained disconnected as of 3:00am today.
The BNP chief earlier had been kept confined to the office for more than two weeks till January 18 in the name of “stepping up her security”.
The move to disconnect electricity and other connections came hours after the BNP on Friday evening called a 72-hour hartal from this morning on top of the ongoing blockade that enters its 27th day today.
BNP’s Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed, who announced the hartal through a press release, was detained by the Rab almost at the same time of cutting the connections.
A number of ruling Awami League leaders, who earlier in the day said disconnecting the lines was aimed at forcing Khaleda to leave the office, couldn’t say anything about last night’s development.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, however, claimed that labourers and employees affected by the blockade cut off the lines. “The government did not snap the lines,” he told journalists at Madaripur.
The minister at a rally in the capital on Friday afternoon threatened to snap the utility connections to Khaleda’s office if she did not call off the anti-government agitations by February 2.
Yesterday evening, Khaleda came up with her reaction through her press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan Sohel, who briefed newsmen at the Gulshan office.
“This is the government’s worst kind of cruelty. I have no words to express my reaction. I am stunned,” Maruf quoted her as saying.
Khaleda also said, “A civilized government cannot do this… it is beyond the imagination in a civilized society.
“Cutting off power, cable and internet lines without any notice is violation of my civil and human rights.”
Bringing reference to an action of the authorities in 2013 when sand-laden trucks were placed in front of her Gulshan residence to restrict her movement before the January 5 one-sided election, she said, “This time, the government has set a worse example.”
“I have passed a sleepless night with my two daughters-in-law following disconnection of power line. It’s unprecedented.”
A staff of the Gulshan office said, “We were gripped by fear — why would only madam’s office have a power cut? IPS of her room started operating minutes after electricity line was snapped by a team of Desco.”
It took about an hour to start the generator. Four drums of fuel were brought to keep the generator running, he added.
As the government did not allow her to hold a planned gathering on January 5, Khaleda had called the countrywide blockade, which turned violent. As many as 37 people were killed; most of them were burn to death as arsonists threw petrol bombs on public vehicles.
RIZVI HANDED OVER TO POLICE
The Rapid Action Battalion-1 detained Rizvi Ahmed in Baridhara around 3:00am yesterday.
Lt Col Tuhin Mohammad Masud, commanding officer of Rab-1, said Rizvi was caught from house No 98 on Park Road in Baridhara for his alleged link with the recent violence and subversive activities.
The Rab handed the BNP leader over to Badda Police Station in the afternoon.
Police showed him arrested in a case for a bus arson on January 20 and handed him over to Detective Branch (DB) around 5:00pm, said MA Jalil, officer-in-charge of Badda Police Station.
Rizvi will be produced before a Dhaka court today, the OC added.