The Jatiya Oikya Front on Friday said that its demands for a free, fair and credible election had to be realised through united movement and the polls scheduled would not be acceptable until creation of a level playing field.
At a rally at Madrassah Maidan in Rajshahi, front leaders said that the hurried announcement of the schedule the 11th parliamentary elections was an act against democracy.
Front chief and Gono Forum president Dr Kamal Hossain through a telephone address, as he could not attend the rally because of sickness, told the rally that the Election Commission hurriedly announced the polls schedule on Thursday despite protests from the opposition.
‘It’s snatching away the voting rights of the people and a violation of the constitution,’ he said.
‘It’s an act against democracy,’ Kamal said.
‘We will press home our demands through united movement,’ said BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at the rally.
‘A level-playing field must be ensured, all the political parties have to be given equal opportunities and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has to be released and allowed to work,’ he told the rally, attended by thousands of people in the northern city.
The rally was held a day after the chief election commissioner announced the scheduled for the 11th parliamentary elections.
The front held its fourth rally in Rajshahi after Sylhet, Chittagong and Dhaka for its seven-point demand, including resignation of the government, formation of a polls-time party-neutral government, dissolution of the parliament, reform of the Election Commission and release of Khaleda and other political prisoners for free, fair and credible elections.
The road communication of Rajshahi with the other districts and the capital had remained snapped since Thursday ahead of the rally.
No bus or truck or other vehicles were allowed to enter the city.
Alliance activists, mainly from BNP, began thronging into the rally venue from 11:00am with banner, festoons and placards demanding release of BNP chief Khaleda Zia. The rally began at 2:00pm.
BNP vice-chairman and former Rajshahi city mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu presided over the rally.
Mirza Fakhrul said that the alliance was formed to realise the desire of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia to restore democracy and establish the rights of the people.
‘We have to take oath on the blood of our brothers killed for their movement for democracy,’ he said.
‘We will make this movement a success and this fascist government would be ousted through the people’s verdict in united movement,’ he said.
Fakhrul said that the election schedule would not be accepted unless political prisoners including Khaleda were released and a level playing field was created.
‘A level playing field must be ensured, all the political parties have to be given equal opportunities and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has to be released and allowed to work,’ he said.
He said that the alliance held dialogue with the government and placed their seven-point demand for a free, fair and credible election.
‘The government is illegal, the parliament must be dissolved and Khaleda Zia must be released. Otherwise the dialogue would not be fruitful,’ he said.
Fakhrul criticised the government for filing ‘fictitious’ cases against them.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction president ASM Abdur Rob said that the hurried announcement of the schedule by the Election Commission proved that the ruling Awami League wanted to hold another unilateral election like the one of January 5, 2014.
‘We will go for movement if our demands are not met, if the election scheduled is not rescheduled,’ he added.
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna urged the government to reschedule the polls schedule and defer the polling date.
Gono Forum general secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu said that the dialogues with prime minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina were not fruitful as none of their demands were met.
‘The prime minister assured us that the law enforcers would not harass us, would not bar us from holding our programmes, but what we are seeing is quite opposite to her promise,’ he said.
He said that the government obstructed them from holding rally peacefully and administration paralysed the whole transport services.
‘If you [Hasina] do not create a level playing field in line with our seven-point demand, it may not be possible for the political parties to participate in the election,’ he said.
Gono Forum executive president Subrata Chowdhury criticised the government for not keeping the promise to stop arrest of the front and BNP activists and in fictitious cases.
Liberal Democratic Party president Oli Ahmed said that they wanted a peaceful and inclusive election avoiding violent movement.
Krishak Sramik Janata League president Abdul Kader Siddique said that he did not join BNP but joined Kamal Hossain’s Jatiya Oikya Front only for restoring democracy.
He criticised the government for ‘proposal for releasing Khaleda Zia on parole.’ He said, ‘You will not be able to keep her confined.’
BNP leader Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain said that no election could be accepted keeping Hasina in the power and they would resort to movement if their demands were not met.
BNP leader Moudud Ahmed said that the law enforcers arrested at least 2,200 leaders and activists of the front and BNP in the past 24 hours.
He demanded reform of the Election Commission and dissolution of the parliament.
Mizanur Rahman Minu said that the government obstructed the rally participants by arrest, intimidation and transport suspension.
Freedom fighter and front leader Zafrullah Chowdhury, BNP leaders Mirza Abbas, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Mosaddeq Hossain Bulbul, Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu and Nadim Mostafa, among others, addressed the rally.
The participants alleged that the road communication of Rajshahi with the other districts including the capital was snapped for the second day. No bus, truck or other vehicle left the city.
Mohidul Islam, who came from Pabna by a car, told New Age that his car was stopped at five places by law enforces and he had to make his way through alternative ways to reach the rally.
The law enforcers were also seen frisking people at various points of the city.
Rajshahi Metropolitan Police spokesperson assistant commissioner Iftekhar Alam said that they conducted the drive to avoid any kind of untoward incident over the announcement of election schedule.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Politics