Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia on Sunday asked the Election Commission to take steps for holding the next general election under a non-party neutral government, deploying army with magistracy and without using electronic voting machine.
At a rally at Suhrawardi Udyan in Dhaka marking November 7 as ‘National Revolution and Solidarity Day’, she said that no election would be held under prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
The rally was organised also to demand restoration of multiparty democracy and holding a free and fair election.
The former prime minister said that no fair election was possible with Hasina in power and people could not exercise their franchise in any election held under Hasina.
Backing her demand for army deployment with magistracy during elections, Khaleda said that people would cast their vote without fear if army would patrol.
‘Otherwise, goons of Hasina equipped with illegal arms would capture polling centres and repress people,’ Khaleda said, alleging that ‘Hasina’s goons’ were killing people regularly.
She said that the chief election commissioner was echoing the government about using EVM and not deploying army in the next general election.
The BNP chief said that the commission must not obey the government’s ‘unjust order.’
She urged the chief election commissioner and election commissioners that they had the responsibility to hold a free and fair election.
She urged them to speak about poll-time non-party neutral government.
Khaleda claimed that people wanted to get rid of the misrule of the incumbent government and wanted change.
She said that her party also wanted change through election and claimed that people would cast vote for ‘sheaf of paddy’, the election symbol of BNP, if they got the opportunity.
All the opposition parties, including the BNP-led alliance, boycotted the January 2014 general elections under a partisan government demanding election under a neutral government.
Thousands of leaders and activists of BNP and its front and associate organisations thronged the rally venue and its surrounding areas from different parts of the country, including Dhaka city, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Manikganj,Narsingdhi, Comilla, Chandpur, Tangail, Kishoreganj and Rajbari.
They started to come with processions about 10:30am carrying banners, placards, portraits of BNP founder the late president Ziaur Rahman, Khaleda and BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman. They were wearing caps of various colours and tied with coloured ribbon on heads, beating drums and chanting slogans.
The venue and its surrounding areas were full with party activists by about 2:00pm. As a result, traffic was stopped on the street from Shahbagh crossing to Matshya Bhaban.
Leaders and activists from different parts of the city and outlying areas with small processions also joined the rally even after beginning of Khaleda’s speech about 4:10pm.
People suffered as most of the city roads had scarcity of public transports while many roads witnessed traffic congestion.
Police and Rapid Action Battalion were deployed and water cannon vehicles were placed at places.
The rally formally started at 1:45pm through recitation from the Quran. Earlier BNP’s cultural wing JASAS staged a cultural programme.
Khaleda alleged that the government obstructed roads in different areas to prevent people from joining the rally.
She even claimed that her motorcade faced obstacle while coming to the rally from her Gulshan house and a bus without driver was parked on her way to delay her arrival.
About chief justice SK Sinha’s resignation, Khaleda said that he was forced to resign under pressure by sending agency people abroad.
She said that the government sent the chief justice abroad forcibly terming him ‘sick’.
He (Sinha) wanted to return home but was not allowed, Khaleda alleged.
Because, the chief justice spoke the truth that the government was controlling the lower judiciary and wanted to control upper judiciary, she said.
His (Sinha) words were proved truth, the BNP chairperson said.
During her one hour speech, Khaleda touched upon various issues including the ruling party’s corruption, killings, enforced disappearance, filing of false cases against BNP leaders and activists, price hike of essential commodities, increase of tariff of gas and power, the ruling party’s failures to fulfill election commitments including free supply of fertiliser to farmer, rice at Tk 10 per kg and job in each house.
Referring to statistics revealed by different non-government organisations, she said that in last ten years more than Tk 4.5 lakh crore was siphoned off abroad by the ruling party people.
Ministers and lawmakers of the ruling Awami League plundering public money deposited huge amounts with Swiss Bank, Khaleda complained.
Tk 30,000 crore was looted from banks in last seven years, she added.
She said Panama papers scandal disclosed investment of crores of dollar in offshore companies.
Anti-corruption commission did not file any case or conduct any investigation over it, she said, alleging that the ACC was rather hot their (BNP) heels.
Khaleda dismissed the notion of the ruling party that BNP would take revenge on Awami League and government officials and employees if it came to power and said her party did not believe in reprisal and violence.
She, however, said BNP would rectify AL leaders and activists through ‘self-purification’ campaign to make them ‘true human’.
Khaleda said her party would bring qualitative change to politics through forging national unity and urged for discussion of all political parties to this end.
She said her party would build up effective parliament where both treasury bench and opposition would discuss people’s problems.
She came down hard on the government for trying to frustrate the day’s rally by stopping transports, arresting party leaders and activists, raiding houses and hotels.
AL is afraid of people, she said.
Khaleda threw a challenge to the AL urging it to judge public gathering by holding separate public meetings of the two major political parties without any obstruction.
She urged Awami League to feel people’s pulse by holding election under a neutral government.
On Rohingya issue, Khaleda said it was a national problem and it should be solved together.
She urged international organisations and international community including Russia, China and India to take steps to repatriate Rohingyas, who took
shelter in Bangladesh, to Myanmar ensuring their safe livelihood and giving them citizenship.
Referring to her party’s charter of Vison-2030, she said they would return the country’s ownership to its people.
Khaleda arrived at the rally venue around 3:00pm. The rally concluded around 5:10pm.
Presided over by BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the rally was addressed, among others, by BNP leaders, including Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Moudud Ahmed, Jamiruddin Sircar, Mirza Abbas, Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, Abdul Moyeen Khan, Nazrul Islam Khan and Amir Khoshru Mahmud Chowdhury.
Many leaders and activists who joined the rally from different parts of the city and other districts alleged that no Dhaka-bound public transports from the districts were allowed to leave the outlying districts while the public transports in Dhaka was very few and they had to walk all the way to the rally venue.
‘I came to the venue with about 50 leaders and activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal from Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University campus at Agargaon on foot as there was no public transport on the road,’ said Chhatra Dal activist Abul Hossain of the university unit.
‘As there was no bus on the road, we rented a few CNG-run auto-rickshaws to reach Kadamtali. We moved separately to avoid police harassment,’ said Manikganj district Juba Dal member Rajib Biswas. ‘But we came to Suhrawardy Udyan from Kadamtali on foot.’
Md Shanta, a Juba Dal activist from Tangail, who along with 25 leaders and activists came to the rally, said that finding no other way, they rented three microbuses to come to Dhaka.
‘Our microbuses were stopped by police at three points – Bypile, near Ashulia bridge and Mirpur 1– for checking. We had to pay Tk 1,200 to a cop at Bypile to allow our microbuses to enter Dhaka,’ he said.
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