Police thwart BNP's protest rally against decision to remove Ziaur Rahman's gallantry award

Police have broken up a rally organised by the BNP in protest against the government’s decision to strip its founder Ziaur Rahman’s of his gallantry title of 'Bir Uttam'.

The rally, jointly organised by the party's Dhaka Metropolitan North and South units, began in front of the National Press Club around 10 am on Saturday.

However, the programme was marred by clashes after police charged baton to disperse the protesters towards the end of the meeting. The protesters retaliated by hurling brickbats at law enforcers.

The government announced the decision to revoke the gallantry title conferred on the late military ruler and wartime sector commander Zia, citing his defiance of the constitution, assisting the self-proclaimed killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in fleeing the country and posting them on important state positions, as reasons for the move. ‘Bir Uttam’ is the second-highest award for individual gallantry in Bangladesh after ‘Bir Sreshtha’.

Aggrieved at the decision, the BNP announced called protest rallies in every district on Saturday in protest.

The commotion in Dhaka started just after the party's standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain finished his speech around 12pm.

Police started moving in from the Kadam Fountain and directed the speakers to end the programme before charging at the demonstrators with batons.

Members of the party later fled by climbing the gates of the National Press Club in Topkhana Road, with some of the leaders, including BNP standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Gayeshwar Chandra Roy taking refuge inside its walls.

More than 100 party leaders and activists were injured in the skirmish, BNP later said.