By Sumon Mahbub and Monirul Islam
Dhaka counted down the seconds to midnight whooping with joy before the firecrackers exploded to ring in New Year, 2016.
A year ago, such sounds would bring nothing but panic, as the BNP unleashed a violent blockade that bedevilled the country for three months.
As the final hours of 2015 drew to a close, many bade a weary and wary adieu to a year marred by the deadly attacks that left the nation reeling and nerves rattled.
Early in the year, vehicles were fire-bombed throughout the programme which ended ahead of the city corporation polls, but by then more than 100 lives had been lost.
Attacks on bloggers and publishers took place at regular intervals throughout the year, leaving several of them dead.
At the end of the year, foreigners, and minority Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims were attacked, while priests received death threats.
But things may look up for the people in the new year, with the BNP saying it will contest in the next elections, even after suffering a massive blow to its fortunes in Wednesday's municipal polls.
As the attacks overshadowed the achievements of the government in several sectors, analysts say the government faces the big challenge of getting the monkey of militancy off the nation’s back.
The sun sets for the last time in 2015 in Cox's Bazar. The sun sets for the last time in 2015 in Cox's Bazar. Masum Ahmed came to celebrate the New Year with other youths on the Dhaka University campus.
"We will be able to celebrate the festivities in the New Year fearlessly; the dark forces will not be able to hinder freethinking - that's what I hope for," he said.
Radical groups Islamic State and al-Qaeda have purportedly claimed credits for most of the attacks.
The government has denied any presence of international terrorist groups in Bangladesh, with the security agencies busting several hideouts of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
Several ministers claim that Bangladesh has been cleansed of the banned militant outfit.
But this year's raids on its hideouts and arrests of its members say otherwise.
In four days by the end of December, police raided two such places in Dhaka and Chittagong. A large amount of explosives and some arms were seized.
The government and police, however, claimed members of Jamaat-e-Islami, the party with a chequered past that has lost registration, and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir are involved with JMB activities.
The ministers have also said the attacks are prescribed by 'foreigners'.
Pakistan took back two officials from its high commission in Dhaka after their alleged links with terrorists were reported.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is among those who say there is a 'conspiracy to prove IS presence in Bangladesh'.
Whatever the 'conspiracy', the people desperately want an end to such attacks.
"May Allah keep us well in the New Year," said tailor Sagar Hossain in Kalabagan.
House painter Kuddus Molla in Mohammadpur said he is happy with the government's activities.
"The Sheikh Hasina government is running the country well," he said.
The beginning of the building of Padma Bridge with domestic funds, exchange of enclaves with India, improvement in financial indices and international plaudits have made the ruling Awami League confident.
Riding on this confidence, the government has hanged three war criminals.
And a confident Sheikh Hasina says her government cannot be brought down by letting loose militancy or violence.
BD News 24, January 1, 2016