ADDRESSING tens of thousands of opposition supporters who gathered in the capital despite ingenious government restrictions, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia Monday gave the Hasina administration a 90-day ultimatum to restore the caretaker system, The Daily Star reports.
She also declared a dawn-to-dusk nationwide shutdown for March 29 to protest the “unprecedented harassment of people” by the government by closing roads and waterways, and arrest of opposition leaders across the country in the last few days.
In April and May, the main opposition will stage demonstration in districts, upazilas and divisional headquarters on different issues.
“Make a formal announcement regarding restoration of non-party neutral caretaker government. Otherwise, we will announce tougher programme from a rally on June 11,” she warned the government.
The BNP chief was addressing a grand rally, which concludes the party’s Cholo Cholo Dhaka Cholo (March to Dhaka) programme, amid chanting of slogans of supporters who joined the rally defying all sorts of obstruction created by law enforcers and the ruling party.
Khaleda declared the March to Dhaka programme from a Chittagong rally on January 9 to mount pressure on the government to bring back a provision that mandate a non-party administration to oversee the national elections.
The system was scarped through a constitutional amendment in June last year in line with a Supreme Court verdict.
The BNP chief, however, did not come up with a formal proposal outlining an interim government to hold the next parliamentary polls due in 2014.
She said they have decided to expand the BNP-led four-party alliance but did not disclose the name of the new coalition. “Our alliance will be expanded to make the movement a success, and I am announcing the fresh programmes on behalf of the new alliance.”
Khaleda, also leader of the opposition in the House, received a loud, sustained applause from a vast crowd, as she reached the stage set up near the party’s office at Naya Paltan at 2:35pm.
Her address started around 4:45pm.
Tens of thousands of opposition activists started to occupy a large part of the city since the morning. It seemed law enforcement agencies and ruling party men — all desperate to keep off people from entering the city — did not achieved much.
Hours before 2:00pm, when the rally was scheduled to start, opposition leaders and activists filled up the area between Fakirapool and Nightingale intersection and gradually spread to adjoining areas.
The whole area was under constant surveillance of Rab, police and other law enforcing agencies. Beside, the opposition volunteers were active to ensure security. Over 10 big screens were put different places for real-time projection of the rally.
Bitterly criticising the government for “paralysing” the country to foil opposition’s grand rally, she said, “The government’s attitude towards the countrymen was same as occupation forces. Usually, it is the opposition that declares hartal, but this time government has observed a hartal.”
She said government itself snapped communications between Dhaka and the rest of the country but failed to prevent people from streaming in the mass gathering. “But how many times will you prevent us? We will declare such programmes repeatedly. The people are with us.”
Reiterating her earlier stance, Khaleda Zia said the BNP-led alliance will not participate in general elections if it is not held under a non party natural government and they will not allow such polls in the country.
“Country is now witnessing a one-party rule. Unofficially, it is Bakshal (the national party formed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman). Democracy is now prisoner by one person,” the BNP chairperson said, adding that administration has become paralysed due to politicisation. Parliament has become ineffective and judiciary is failing to ensure justice.
CRITICISED THE GOVERNEMNT FOR LAST FEW DAYS’ ACTIVITIES
Khaleda came down heavily on the government for obstructing people from attending the rally.
“The government could not keep people from joining the rally although they barred them everywhere while tortured many. What did Awami League try to prove by paralyzing the capital?” she said.
The authorities disrupted the country’s communication system in the last three days, forced city hotels and restaurants to keep shut, even made the police raid houses and offices to prevent people from joining the rally, she alleged.
“No one has the right to make people suffer like this. What kind of democracy is it when armed cadres of the ruling party bring out procession under police guard while the opposition is not let hold a peaceful rally,” asked Khaleda.
ISSUES WITH INDIA
She criticised the government for its failure in Teesta water-sharing issue and alleged that so many secret deals had been made with India.
She said people want to know about these deals.
“The factories are being closed down due to power and gas shortages and conspiracies are on to sell these factories to another country,” she alleged.
She said there is no border security any more. “BSF (Indian Border Security Force) men intrude our territory and kill our people but the government does not protest,” said Khaleda, adding, “If voted to power, we pledge to strengthen the border forces.”
ON MEDIA AND SAGAR-RUNI ISSUE
The former premier alleged that the government was controlling the media. “They [Govt] forced ETV, ntv and Banglavision to stop live telecast of the rally,” she said.
“The TV channels were not being allowed to work freely and the talk shows are being censored as the government fears the people and the media,” she said urging the journalist community to continue their movement for the independence of newspaper.
She said the trial of Sagar and Runi would not be held as the prime minister had declared that evidence of the killing were lost.
ABOUT INDECENT REMARKS MADE BY PM
Khaleda criticised her political archrival Sheikh Hasina and her ruling-party leaders for making indecent remarks against her [Khaleda] and the leaders of the opposition.
She said the prime minister’s statements in parliament and different places does not fit with the head of a government.
“Don’t dishonour your post and position,” she told the prime minister.
Referring to the PM’s recent remark, where it was said, “The caretaker government will take you to the lap and put you in power”, Khaleda said, “Did the Fakhruddin-Moinuddin government bring you in power this way?”
“I believe in my religion. I have struggled a lot and the Almighty has blessed me with many things. I am blessed with people’s love and they made me the prime minister three times,” Khaleda went on, “I don’t want to assume power to avenge but to protect the country.”
REPLY REGARDING ISI MONEY
Trashing the allegation of the ruling party leaders that Khaleda had taken money from Pakistani intelligence agency ISI before the 1991 elections, the BNP chairperson said people know who the agents of another country were and who had received bags full of money before the 2008 elections.
“These are vulgar and irresponsible statements. People always cooperated and helped BNP to go to power,” she said.
PROF YUNUS ISSUE
Khaleda said the country’s honour and dignity has been destroyed by the government’s behaviour towards Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus.
“It is unfortunate that Nobel laureate of other country is being invited here while our own Nobel laureate is not even mentioned,” she said.
PROGRAMMES FOR APRIL AND MAY
The leader of the opposition said demonstrations and rallies would be organised in district and upazila headquarters and in the capital throughout April to protest price hike of essentials, shortage of gas and electricity, and deterioration of law and order.
In May, she said, besiege programmes would be organised in district and upazila headquarters demanding making fertilisers and framing apparatus available to farmers.