Tens of thousands of opposition BNP activists and leaders joined the divisional rally in Barishal city on Saturday demanding the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and national election under a non-party neutral government.

The rally began around 11 am at the city's Bangabandhu Udyan while the central party leaders will join the rally shortly.

The crowd spilled out onto the surrounding roads-- 1.5 km off the venue, said locals.

Police have taken position in the venue area to prevent any untoward incident.

People with banners and placards have joined the rally from different parts of the district.

The BNP activists started gathering at the rally venue on foot since Thursday night from different districts and units under Barishal Division.

Many of them alleged that they faced obstacles at various entry points of the city as the ruling party men tried to intercept them.

Meanwhile, nine BNP activists were injured when the motorcade of Ishraque Hossain, member of BNP's foreign affairs committee, was attacked by miscreants on the way to the party's divisional rally venue in Barishal city on Saturday.

Ishraque, also BNP's Dhaka South City unit leader, was unhurt and reached the venue around 9 am. A number of vehicles were also vandalised during the attack, BNP activists said.

Ishraque said a group of miscreants attacked their motorcade when they reached Mahilara Bazar in Gouranadi upazila in the morning.

Bus, launch, speedboat, three-wheeler movements in Barishal division have come to a halt over the last couple of days, ahead of the BNP rally.

Suspension of public vehicle movement on roads and waterways have caused immense public suffering.

The official reason behind the suspension of bus, three-wheeler, launch and speedboat movement could not be known yet.

As part of its move to continue the pace of its ongoing movement, BNP on September 27 announced a series of public rallies in 10 divisional cities.

The organisers said the rally is meant to denounce the price hike of daily essentials and fuel, the death of five party men in previous police action in Bhola, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, and Jashore, and to ensure the freedom of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

BNP has long been demanding that the next general election be held under a caretaker government, not under any political government - a demand sharply rejected by the ruling Awami League.

Saturday's rally will be the fifth by the BNP at the divisional level. The first one was held in Chattogram, the second one in Mymensingh, and the third and fourth in Khulna and Rangpur, respectively.

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