People in B’desh irked over smear campaign against Padma Bridge

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A student activist of the Pakistan-sponsored Opposition BNP — Bayazid Talha was on the bridge to unscrew the nuts and bolts, and his video on TikTok led his party colleagues to unleash a social media campaign questioning the quality of construction….writes SUMI KHAN

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police of Bangladesh has seized the car of TikToker Bayezid Talha who had posted a video on Facebook allegedly after removing screw bolts from a railing of the Padma Bridge. Police are looking for Kaiser who was with him at the time of the incident.

Immigration authorities have been warned not to allow Kaiser, an expatriate Bangladeshi from Qatar to leave the country, said Muhammad Rezaul Masud, special superintendent of CID’s Cyber Police Centre.

Earlier on Sunday, police detained Talha from Shantinagar in Dhaka and he was booked under the Special Powers Act. On Monday, a Shariatpur court granted a seven-day remand against Talha.

“We think it is a big crime to loosen the screw bolts of the bridge’s railing, record the video, and capitalise it by hurting people’s emotions…,” said Rezaul Masood, Special Superintendent of Police for CID’s Cyber Investigation Division.

“The toll tax collection of the 6.15 km Padma Bridge, built over Padma River in Bangladesh, crossed BDT 21 million mark. Thousands travelled across the bridge on Sunday after being inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. However, Pakistan sponsored Opposition Islamist groups in the country started a new smear campaign – questioning the quality of construction,” an intelligence official told IANS, seeking anonymity.

“The long-awaited inauguration of Padma Bridge, one of the most challenging projects in the country, and the accomplishment of the mega project with our own fund is a matter of immense joy, pride and ability. It also upholds the dignity of the country,” Sheikh Baharul Islam, a veteran Freedom Fighter and one of the founders of the Genocide Museum of Khulna, told IANS.

A student activist of the Pakistan-sponsored Opposition BNP — Bayazid Talha was on the bridge to unscrew the nuts and bolts, and his video on TikTok led his party colleagues to unleash a social media campaign questioning the quality of construction.

Soon after the video went viral, the BNP from its verified Facebook page posted that the construction of the $3.6 billion bridge was deeply flawed and faulty.

When Hasina decided to build the bridge with the country’s own resources after the World Bank pulled out over unsubstantiated corruption allegations in 2012, BNP supremo Begum Zia had called the move a “pipe dream” and asserted that the bridge will never be completed. Other BNP leaders joined the chorus with many even calling for the resignation of Hasina.

Even the World Bank, which once cited the corruption allegations as a reason to stop financing the project, is now congratulating Bangladesh and its people on the completion of the much-awaited bridge.

Youths were seen going live on Facebook from the bridge asking for a boycott of the pro-Pakistan BNP-Jamaat alliance for the betterment of the country.

BNP’s Facebook post after Talha’s arrest triggered an uproar on social media among people from all quarters.

“You said this bridge would never become a reality. So fugitive criminal Tarique Rahman, come with your convicted corrupt mother Begum Zia and other leaders to see,” some Bangladeshi netizens said on videos filmed on the “majestic” bridge.

That was also largely the public mood as hundreds attacked BNP activist Talha’s video showing him loosening the nuts and bolts of the bridge.

Anik, a Dhaka University student mockingly said in his post: “… While people in thousands are rushing to get a glimpse of the bridge, BNP’s politics to undermine this bridge would only make the party more unpopular, isolated and less trustworthy.”

In Bangladesh’s bitterly polarised politics, a baseless smear is a frequently used weapon. But despite the attempt to spread panic over the quality of construction, the mounting traffic on the bridge seems to indicate that the commuters are not taking Talha’s TikTok video seriously.

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