Giving the government until tomorrow (Saturday) to initiate dialogue over the polls-time nonpartisan cabinet, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Friday said they will enforce a 60-hour non-stop countrywide hartal from 6am on Sunday if the regime does not respond.
“We’re giving the government two days — today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday). Let’s come to the negotiation table over a nonparty government. Movement and dialogue will go on all together. If the government doesn’t take any initiative for talks by the time, there’ll be a nonstop countrywide hartal from 6am on Sunday to 6pm on Tuesday,” Khaleda told a mammoth rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in the afternoon.
Mentioning that the 60-hour shutdown is their initial programme, the opposition leader said, “We’ll go for tougher programmes if our demand goes unheeded.” Khaleda asked her arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to join the line of people by giving up her arrogance of power and pursue the path of dialogue. Otherwise, she warned, the scope for talks will also be closed.
The former Prime Minister said she would meet people on the streets and invited all to join the 18-party’s movement if the government fails to reach a compromise with the opposition. She also urged people from all walks of life, including female, elderly people and youths, to take to the streets to give the government a befitting reply if it continues its repressive acts.
Claiming that the people have already rejected the Prime Minister’s proposal for forming an all-party polls-time administration, the BNP chief said, “We’re telling you as a friend. Accommodate our proposal (on polls-time non-party government) in the Constitution through necessary amendments, if necessary.”
Khaleda warned the Election Commission (EC) not to go for any unilateral election and said if the Commission does excesses and goes for one-sided polls, the consequences will not be good. “Any unilateral election will be resisted. I want to tell the Election Commission, no amendment to the RPO will be allowed. The election will only be held with the participation of all parties. There’s no other way,” the BNP chief further warned.
She also asked the Prime Minister to test her popularity in a level-playing field if she believes that people still want her. “Didn’t you notice that cracks have developed in your boat? Don’t make any mistake.”
The BNP chairperson urged the police, Rab and BGB members to play a neutral role in performing their duties and advised them not to work for Awami League. Showing a newspaper report that Jamalpur DC sought votes for the ruling party, Khaleda Zia said the government has been hatching a conspiracy to hold an election using the influence of the administration.
“She (Hasina) wants to hold the election using all the DCs, SPs and UNOs to avert their massive defeat.” She alleged that the government has declared a war against people and the opposition is on a movement for establishing people’s rights, not for going to power.
Khaleda also alleged that the government politicised every institution and administration, including the police, civil administration and the army, for taking undue advantages. “They’ve established undeclared Bksal. The people of Bangladesh did fight the War of Independence not for Bakshal.” Though she at a meeting on Thursday said the government’s tenure expired on that day, the opposition leader reminded that the legitimacy of the present government expires on October 27.
“Not people, but the police, Rab and BDR (BGB) are now the government’s last resort. I won’t blame them (Rab, police BGB). You love the country. Don’t obey any illegal order of this government from now on.” Pointing at the law enforcing agencies, she said, “This government will be illegal from October 27. So, don’t repress or open fire on people at the directives of this government. Assisting an illegal regime is an unjust act.”
Khaleda said the government posted officials loyal to the ruling party in all key positions to get their support in holding a lopsided election. The opposition leader said if the law enforcers think about real democracy and a fair election they will not obey the unjust orders of this ‘illegal’ regime and refrain from harassing or torturing people.
The opposition leader assured the government officials that her party if it returns to power will not remove anyone from their jobs though the ruling party is campaigning that they will lose their jobs if BNP takes office. “We’ll work with all and evaluate those who perform better. We won’t remove any one rather will appoint many more based on merit. We won’t politicise the administration as it doesn’t bring good for the country, she told her audience.”
On RMG issue, she said the Rana Plaza collapse brought a negative image for Bangladesh in the world. “After destroying the jute sector, they’re now destroying the garment sector. Why Awami League’s Murad Jong is still at large. Forcing garment workers against their will into the building that developed cracks to work on a day of hartal was the worst act against human rights.”
Khaleda sharply criticised the government and the Finance Minister for insulting Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus and said, “The Finance Minister always finds faults in others…this government doesn’t know how to respect revered persons.” Rejecting the ruling party’s allegation that BNP favours undemocratic forces, she said it was not BNP but Awami League which had legitimised unconstitutional governments in 1982 and 2007.
“Walk on straight paths, or else, you’ll fall in the trap that you’re creating for us. People are with us, they can pull up us,” Khaleda said. She alleged that the government in a planned way wants to destroy the country. “We won’t let the nation to get hurt in any way.”
Khaleda alleged that the people are enchained as there is no rule of law and democracy in the country. She also promised that if the 18-party alliance forms the next government they will free the country from corruption and injustice.
The BNP chief also urged the government not to resort to arrest and harassment of opposition leaders and activists over their shutdown programme. “Stop repression or the consequences will not be good. “From now on, the government will be held responsible and face trial if any one is killed, repressed or subjected to enforced disappearance as the government has become now illegal.”
Khaleda accused the government of committing Pilkhana carnage and sought the trail of those who are actually involved in it. Describing irregularities in various sectors, she said making quick money in the name of quick rental, Hall-Mark scandal, Bismillah Group scandal, Sharemarket crash and looting of banks are the signs of successes of this regime. The people and the world knew why the Padma Bridge was not constructed, she said.
The BNP chief also alleged that the government had created obstacles to the way of the people who were coming to join the rally today and mentioned that section 144 was imposed in many areas. She also criticised the government for forming a squad for enforced disappearances. “How many people have disappeared? We know the name of the squad; we know who are there in the squad and what type of vehicles are used for the squad.”
Amid thunderous clapping, Khaleda reached the podium of the rally at 4pm. BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan, Rafiqul Islam Miah, Goyeshar Chandra Ray, Mirza Abbas and Brig Gen (retd) Hannan Shah, acting Ameer of Jamaat-e Islami Mokbul Ahmed, LDP President Col (retd) Oli Ahmed, Bangladesh Jatiya Party chairman Andalib Rahman Partha, Islami Oikya Jote chairman Abdul Latif Nezami, Jagpa president Shafiul Alam Pradhan, among others, spoke at the rally.
The rally started with recitation from the Quran around 2:15 pm with BNP Dhaka city unit convener Sadeque Hossain Khoka in the chair. Supporters of the BNP-led 18-party alliance flocked the rally venue in small processions since morning chanting slogans in favour of their demand.
They carried festoons, placards, banners and portraits of BNP founder slain president Ziaur Rahman, BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman took positions at the rally venue and its adjoining areas. Some Shibir activists were seen carrying placards inscribed with slogans like ‘Police+Shibir-Bhai Bhai, We’re for the Nation- Shibir.’
Huge law enforcers were deployed in and around the Suhrawardy Udyan to fend off any unwarranted incident. Earlier, after a daylong wrangling with the government over its venue on Thursday, the opposition alliance finally decided to hold the rally at Suhrawardy Udyan instead of Nayapaltan. – UNB