Much talked-about ‘Greater National Unity’ started journey on Saturday asking the government to form a polls-time neutral government by September 30 through discussion with political parties for creating an atmosphere for a free, fair and neutral general election.
Main opposition the Bangladesh Nationalist Party extended its support to the unity.
The other demands adopted by Nagarik Samabesh (citizen rally), attended by top leaders of the political parties, are reconstitution of a neutral Election Commission by the deadline and dissolution of the parliament before announcement of the schedule of the 11th parliamentary polls likely to be held in December.
The national leaders of the greater political unity would join meetings and rallies across the country from October 1.
The declaration of the rally demanded that ‘legal and justified rights’ of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, jailed ‘unjustly ignoring, hampering and making non-functional the normal process of justice’, must be ensured.
Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, led by Gono Forum president Kamal Hossain, organised the citizen rally at Dhaka Mahanagar Natya Mancha in Dhaka for building up a national unity to ensure functional democracy, rule of law and people’s voting rights.
The venue was packed up with leaders and activists of different political parties, mainly BNP.
Leaders and activists of political parties, including BNP, Gono Forum, Bikolpodhara Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal led by ASM Rob, Nagorik Oikya, Jatiya Party (Zafar), Bangladesh Jatiya Party, National People’s Party, National Democratic Party, Jatiya Ganatantrik Party, Bangladesh Labour Party faction, Sonar Bangla Party and Ganasamhati Andolan attended the rally.
Although leaders of political parties of BNP-led alliance attended the citizen rally, none from the Jamaat-e-Islami was seen on dais.
National committee for protection of oil, gas, power, ports and minerals convenor Sheikh Mohammad Shahidullah, reading out the written declaration of the rally, said that false cases filed against leaders and activists of all political parties must be withdrawn, arrested be released and no one be arrested from the time until the national election ended.
‘We are calling the people to form committees of ‘Greater National Unity’ comprising all political parties believing in the spirit of struggle of the Liberation War, individuals, classes and professions and civil society at district, upazila, union and ward levels and to continue united constitutional and peaceful programme of mass awakening,’ the declaration read.
As Kamal Hossain, one of the framers of the constitution, urged the leaders and activist whether they had support to the declaration, top leaders of the political parties extended support to the declaration raising their hands together.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at the event thanked Kamal Hossain for taking the initiative through Jatiya Oikya Prokriya for showing a way to people in the present ‘extreme crucial days’ of the country under the present ‘autocratic government’.
‘We have advanced one step ahead through the day’s programme,’ he said, expressing hope that the process of forging the unity would move forward.
He said that jailed ailing BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia sent them a message to form national unity at any cost to end the present ‘misrule’.
Fakhrul said that leaders and activists gathered at the venue only for ousting the autocratic government and releasing Khaleda.
Fakhrul urged the national leaders present to launch a movement on the basis of minimum demands and programme to force the government to hold a fair election acceptable to all for establishing a government of unity of the people.
The BNP leader pointed out the common demands – resignation of the government, dissolution of parliament, polls-time neutral government, reconstitution of the Election Commission, deployment of army during the polls and no use of electronic voting machines in the next polls.
Presiding over the programme, jurists Kamal Hossian said that they were carrying out efforts to establish the national unity to ensure functional democracy, rule of law and neutral enforcement of law, establishing people’s fundamental rights, including voting rights, human rights and constitutional rights.
He said that people had given massive respond to their move, saying now time came to unite all the political parties.
‘I believe our effort will be successful,’ Kamal said.
Addressing as the chief guest, Bikolpodhara Bangladesh president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury said that now all democratic and pro-independence forces needed to get united.
He said that the process of forging national unity could be intensified on the basis of balance by taking the pro-independence forces only.
Badruddoza, also former president of the country, said that a balance of power had to be created among parliament, cabinet, president and prime minister. Otherwise new chapter of autocracy-free Bangladesh would not be created, he said.
He said that they discussed with different democratic political parties, individuals and BNP expressing hope that the result would be fruitful.
‘Let us wake up in positive dream,’ said Badruddoza Chowdhury, also the Juktafront chairman, and demanded release of jailed Khaleda.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said that the journey was started from Jatiya Oikya Prokriya and termed it the symbol of people’s unity for ousting the ‘autocratic’ and ‘fascist’ government.
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said that the rally would be a new milestone in the politics of Bangladesh and new journey of unity started.
The process of unity would be further consolidated uniting all people, he said.
Moudud expressed hope that Kamal Hossain and Badruddoza Chowdhury would work jointly and BNP would remain with them.
JSD president ASM Abdur Rob said that qualitative change would be brought through national unity.
He said that now the government of national consensus was essential.
Nagorik Oikya convenor Mahmudur Rahman Manna said that they wanted to participate in participatory polls and they were being asked to swim with tied limbs.
He said they wanted immediate release of Khaleda and all political prisoners.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury, former army-backed caretaker government adviser Mainul Hosein, BNP standing committee member Abdul Moyeen Khan, former Dhaka University Central Students Union vice-president Sultan Mohammad Mansur, Supreme Court Bar Association president Zainul Abedin, Ganasamhati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki, Gono Forum executive president Subrata Chowdhury, among others, addressed the rally.
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