The BNP chief gave the ultimatum at a rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital yesterday, threatening to wage even tougher agitations should the government fail to act by Tuesday evening, when the 60-hour hartal ends.
Thousands of the BNP-led 18-party alliance leaders and activists cheered in support of the announcement, which Khaleda said was just an “initial programme” to compel the government to hold the election under a non-partisan government.
Her ultimatum came hours after Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would phone Khaleda soon to discuss the formation of a polls-time administration.
Claiming the Awami League-led government becomes illegal on Sunday, Khaleda called upon all government employees and members of the police, Rab and Border Guards not to carry out any government order from then on.
“I want to say about the police members that if they think about democracy and an impartial, elected government, then they would not cooperate with the present government after October 27.
“We have said that the present government has become illegal. Therefore, it has no right to stay in power anymore. I will ask the police brothers not to obey government’s order like party men. And cooperation with an illegal government is tantamount to committing illegal activities,” she said.
The former prime minister also warned the Election Commission against holding any election without the participation of all parties, and urged the government to hold discussion on her Monday’s proposal for forming the election-time government.
According to her proposal, the head of the government would be a “respected person” chosen through consensus among political parties and that five advisers would come from the caretaker government of 1996 and five from the caretaker government of 2001.
“I want to say that there is not much time. We will give two days’ time — today and tomorrow — for the government to hold the dialogue. If you do not arrange talks within this time, we will have no other alternative but to call a ‘straight-cut’ programme,” Khaleda said.
According to her, a minor amendment to the constitution was enough to hold the election under a non-party government.
The much-talked about rally was held as part of the opposition alliance’s countrywide programme demanding restoration of the caretaker government. Leaders and workers of Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir dominated the rally, including the front rows.
The rally was scheduled for 2:00pm but the opposition men started gathering at the venue from around 11:00am, carrying large banners, festoons and sticks. They also blocked portion of the road (Matsya Bhaban to Shahbagh), halting traffic movement for around six hours till 6:00pm.
As Khaleda put it in the rally, talks and street movement would take place simultaneously. “Our movement will go on. And if you [government] come for discussion, then talks too will take place.”
Before announcing the hartal programme, Khaleda, also the 18-party alliance chief, asked the rally-goers if they wanted any fresh programme, to which they shouted: “Hartal, hartal.”
Sources said the BNP chairperson initially decided to give the government a few more days for holding the talks, but she was later advised to call hartal from tomorrow so that the opposition men did not lose enthusiasm.
Announcing the hartal, Khaleda called upon “all mothers, sisters, brothers, elderly people and youths” to take to the streets against the government.
“Will you be on the streets if we announce programmes? You all will have to take to the streets.”
Towards the end of her 30-minute speech, she said: “The present government has imprisoned many political leaders illegally and we will be able to free them all if we can oust this administration.”
Referring to the disappearance of party leaders M Ilias Ali, Chowdhury Alam and others, Khaleda claimed her party knew the “special force” and the vehicles involved in such disappearances.