BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Friday said Jatiya Oikyafront will have to realise its demands through a movement as the political crisis has deepened with the announcement of the election schedule without releasing their chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail.“The crisis has got complicated further. Now it’s a basic question whether democracy will persist in Bangladesh or not, whether the country’s independence and sovereignty, and our right to expression, right to vote and the association will remain or not,” he said while speaking at a public rally.
The BNP leader further said, “Our stance is clear that a level playing field must be created for all and our leader Khaleda Zia must be released and allowed to work. Or else, no election and election schedule will be acceptable. We believe the fall of this government will be ensured through a united movement of people.”
Jatiya Oikyafront arranged the rally at Madrasah Maidan here to mobilise public support in favour of the alliance’s various demands for holding the 11th parliamentary elections in a fair and credible manner. Gono Forum President and Oikyafront chief Dr Kamal Hossain was supposed to address the rally as the chief guest, but he could not arrive here due to his reported illness.
He, however, briefly addressed the rally using the technology and strongly denounced the hurried announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission “The schedule was announced swiftly to deprive people of voting rights. I think it‘s an anti-constitutional and anti-democratic act,” Kamal Hossain added.
Fakhrul said the government has destabilised the country by filing ‘false’ cases against the opposition leaders and activists. “They’re using cases as their weapon to suppress their opponents. The presence of people in this rally has proved that they couldn’t subdue us.”
Fakhrul said several thousand BNP leaders and activists have been sent to jail while thousands of others are being harassed in ‘false’ cases. He alleged that the government wants to deprive people of their democratic rights by using law enforcers and guns. The BNP leader also urged people to take a vow to free Khaleda Zia from jail through a united street movement.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President ASM Abdur Rob said their alliance wants to go to polls, but their demands must be accepted. “We’ll realise our demands even by sacrificing our lives. We must win the struggle for ensuring voting rights and restoring democracy.”
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president Oli Ahmad said they still did not take any decision whether they will join the polls or boycott it. “But we’ve taken a decision that Khaleda Zia will have to be freed.” Krishak Sramik Janata League president Kader Siddiqui urged all to get united under the banner of Oikyafront to have Khaleda Zia freed from jail. “I think Khaleda Zia means Bangladesh’s politics and she’ll have to be released from jail.”
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said no election will be allowed in the country without the participation of Khaleda Zia, BNP and Jatiya Oikyafront. “Let’s carry out a movement to realise our seven-point demand and ensure an inclusive election.”
Another BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said they have tried to resolve the political problem through talks and avoid violence. “But the dialogue was not successful as the government doesn’t want to quit power.”He said all should get prepared so that the government cannot hold another January-5 like election. Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the government does not want to hold a credible election fearing its miserable defeat.
He called upon all to get united and take to the streets with an aim to return home by ensuring the fall of the government.
Manna also called upon the government to defer the election schedule so that all parties can participate in the election.
The rally activities formally started around 2pm with recitation from the holy Quran and holy Gita. BNP chairperson’s adviser Mizanur Rahman Minu presided over the rally. It was the fourth rally of the Oikyafront as the alliance held rallies in Sylhet, Chattogram and capital Dhaka on October 24, 27 and November 6 respectively.
Thousands of leaders and activists of the BNP holding placards, banners and portraits of its founder Ziaur Rahman, chairperson Khaleda Zia and acting chairman Tarique Rahman started gathering at the rally venue since 11 am. They chanted various slogans demanding Khaleda’s release from jail. Huge law enforcers were deployed around the rally venue to maintain law and order.
The Oikyafront’s seven-point demand includes installation of a neutral interim government, dissolution of parliament, reconstitution of the Election Commission, release of all the political prisoners, deployment of army and cancellation of the move to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for holding the next polls in a fair and acceptable manner.
On October 13, BNP together with Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, JSD and Nagorik Oikya launched the Jatiya Oikyafront to press for their seven-point demand. Later, Krishak Sramik Janata League, led by Kader Siddiqui, joined the alliance.
Gono Forum general secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder and Jatiya Oikyafront leader Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, BNP chairperson’s adviser and Rajshahi divisional coordinator of Jatiya Oikyafront Mizanur Rahman Minu, BNP standing committee member Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, BNP vice-chairman Barkatullah Bulu, BNP chairperson’s adviser Habibur Rahman Habib and Bangladesh Labour Party chairman Dr Mostafizur Rahman, among others, spoke at the rally.