Amid the presence of a huge number of party men, the BNP yesterday called upon the government to dissolve parliament before the next parliamentary polls for holding the elections under a non-partisan neutral administration.
Thousands of BNP leaders and activists brought out a colourful procession in the city marking the country's 48th Independence Day. At the programme, party leaders also vowed to “restore” democracy and people's rights in the country through a peaceful and systematic movement.
Since noon, activists of the BNP and its associate bodies, in their hundreds, started gathering in front of the party's Nayapaltan central office and its adjacent areas with small processions.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, along with other senior leaders, inaugurated the procession around 2:00pm.
Carrying the national flag, placards, banners, festoons and portraits of top party leaders, the BNP men marched towards Shantinagar amid tight security.
They chanted slogans demanding the release of their party Chairperson Khaleda Zia, who was sent to jail in a corruption case on February 8.
The rally ended in Nayapaltan around one hour later after marching through Kakrail and Shantinagar streets, creating traffic jam in Motijheel, Fakirapool, Bijaynagar, Kakrail, Shantinagar and Malibagh areas.
BNP's freedom fighters wing Muktijoddha Dal also brought out a procession with a symbolic coffin. “Democracy has gone in this coffin” was written on it.
In his brief speech before the procession, Fakhrul called upon the government to take steps for holding the next general elections under a non-party administration.
“The prime minister must resign and parliament should be dissolved before the polls,” he said.
He also said the country's people were deprived of all their basic rights as the government had snatched them away. “We fought the Liberation War with the spirit of democracy but the government has established a one-party rule by destroying that very spirit after assuming office.”
The BNP leader urged his party colleagues to take a vow to restore peace, democracy and peoples' rights in the country.
Several hundred law enforcers were deployed at different points from Nayapaltan to Malibagh crossing to fend off any untoward incident.
Earlier, a three-member BNP team, led by party standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan, met Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan to seek permission for their rally scheduled to be held on March 29 at the Suhrawardy Udyan.
Emerging from the meeting, the BNP leader told journalists that the home minister told them that the government had no objection to the holding of their rally.
“He [the minister] said he would inform us about the permission after discussion with the authorities concerned. We found him positive, but we will wait for his confirmation,” Nazrul said.
He said they also discussed the indiscriminate arrest of their party leaders and activists and repression against them. “We requested him to stop it. I think the minister took it seriously.”
Later, the home minister told journalists that the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner would decide whether the BNP would get the permission.
“If our police commissioner thinks there is no apprehension of anything bad on March 29, he will grant permission for the rally. This is his duty,” he said.
The minister also said the DMP may permit BNP to hold its rally if it changes the schedule and venue. “It is our duty to ensure security of the people so that no untoward situation is created.”