BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday alleged the government was trying to hold a stage-managed, one-sided election and said her party and allies would resist any such move.
“I’m here not to seek votes, but to resist the government move to hold a stage-managed, one-sided election,” she said.
The opposition leader was addressing an 18-party alliance rally, participated by tens of thousands of people, at Rangpur Zilla School ground yesterday afternoon.
People from adjoining districts started swarming at the venue as early as 8:00am.
Crowds from the ground had spilled onto the surrounding areas as the BNP chief got on the podium at 3:40pm amid thunderous applause and slogans from the audience.
Khaleda, leader of the opposition in the House, spoke for around 40 minutes. She thanked the people for braving heavy rains to attend the rally. The downpour was a blessing from Allah, she said.
She said the BNP-led 18-party alliance would never accept Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the chief of the polls-time government.
“You [PM] had not accepted retired chief justice KM Hasan as the caretaker government chief in 2007, though he was impartial,” she said.
“As you [Hasina] had not accepted him [KM Hasan], there is no question of our accepting you as the chief of the polls-time government as you are the chief of a party.”
Khaleda reiterated, “The election has to be held under a non-party caretaker government.”
She alleged that the government had scrapped the caretaker government system, sensing a debacle in any election under a non-party administration.
“Therefore,I am urging the government to create a level-playing field for a free and fair election. My only demand is for an election under a non-partisan government. We will take to the streets if the government does not pay heed to our demand.”
On the possibility of talks, the BNP chief said, “There will be no dialogue unless a caretaker government bill is passed in parliament.”
Referring to the current session of parliament, she said this session would continue till October 24. “So there is still time. Bring a bill in parliament to restore the caretaker system and pass it in the House. Then a fair election will be held with the participation of all parties.
“After the passage of the bill, a dialogue can be held over who will head the caretaker government.”
The opposition leader also urged political parties outside the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance to wage a united movement against the government.
“If we can win, we will form a new type of government by taking all political parties aboard to build a prosperous Bangladesh.”
Calling the Election Commission worthless and spineless, Khaleda said, “As you are still in office, try to stand on own feet. Then you will get people’s support. Otherwise, you will have to quit.”
The BNP chief alleged the government was planning to use the police, deputy commissioners and other service holders to hold one-sided polls to cling to power.
“But I urge you all not to assist the government if it tries to hold a one-sided election. Don’t obey the government orders. We will remain beside you. None will be able to sack you. But if you carry out government orders to hold one-sided polls, people will identify you,” she said with a note of warning.
“Remember, this government has only three months. After that it will have to go.”
Calling upon the people to get ready for a strong movement, the former prime minister said the people would have to raise their voice against the government’s misrule and force it to accept the opposition’s demand.
“Will you be with me on the streets?” she asked the audience. The jubilant party leaders and activists responded with a deafening “yes”.
A smiling Khaleda then said, “The people of Rangpur have woken up and they have freed themselves of misconceptions about the BNP.”
She alleged though her government had earlier taken an initiative to establish a science and technology university in Rangpur, the current government did not implement it.
She pledged that if the BNP returned to power, it would establish the university and carry out huge development activities in the region.
Khaleda alleged that the government was enacting new laws to snatch away people’s democratic rights to stage rallies, processions and observe hartals, blockades and sit-ins.
“You are in office for only three more months. The laws you are enacting will not be enforced on us; it will rather be enforced on you. You may fall into the hole you are now digging for others.”
Khaleda once again said if the BNP was voted to power it would introduce a new brand of politics and would establish good governance, rule of law and stamp out corruption and terrorism from the country.
She also said quota in government jobs would be reduced by 10 to 15 percent.
Alleging the government was torturing top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders by labelling them as anti-liberation elements, the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday demanded the release of all opposition leaders.
“It was unprecedented the way the government was carrying out oppression on Jamaat leaders, especially on a youth – the Shibir president,” said Khaleda, who is chief of the BNP-Jamaat-led 18-party opposition alliance.
For the first time in over a year, Khaleda Zia categorically demanded the release of Shibir chief Delowar Hossain and the leaders of the Jamaat.
At a rally in Chittagong in 2010, the BNP chief demanded the release of the Jamaat top brass now behind bars on war crimes charges.
Khaleda’s rally in Rangpur was part of her ongoing campaign at seven divisional headquarters to drum up public support for the caretaker government demand.
Several hundred arches were built and billboards set in the city to welcome the leader of the opposition. The city was wearing a festive look with numerous banners and festoons ahead of her visit.
Khaleda, accompanied by top leaders of the 18-party alliance, left the capital for Rangpur Saturday.
She is scheduled to visit Rajshahi to address a rally today. She will return to Dhaka tomorrow.