Saying that the Jatiya Oikyafront would not boycott the upcoming national election, its top leader Dr Kamal Hossain yesterday called upon the alliance men and all others to guard the polling centres so that voters could exercise their franchise.
“I say with folded hands that we will not boycott [the election] at all. We don't want to pay the price anymore like what we did once [in 2014] by boycotting. No matter how many types of irregularities they indulge in, we will cast votes by going [to polling centers] in thousands,” he said.
The eminent jurist was addressing a grand rally, organised by Jatiya Ainjibi Oikyafront, at the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). Lawyers from 64 districts joined the programme.
Terming the incumbent government “unconstitutional”, Dr Kamal, also president of Gonoforum, said, “It makes me laugh when they [government] talk about the constitution. [But] it is they who are in power unconstitutionally; they are violating the constitution day and night.”
Coming down heavily on the government, he said it should be awarded with gold medals for “deceiving people” in last five years.
“A total of 154 candidates became lawmakers without being elected [in 2014 elections]. The attorney general, on behalf of the government, had said before a court that they would soon start talks with all political parties to hold an acceptable election. But does [the word] soon mean five years?”
Remembering the sacrifice of the Liberation War martyrs, Dr Kamal said they were being insulted everyday as the government was not elected by the people.
He urged young voters to get united and turn themselves into the country's owners. “Go door to door to tell people that we have to become the owner of the country. It's very much possible.”
Referring to “buying of party nominations” at as high as Tk 5 crore, he said, “Democracy is finished. We have to guard against buying candidatures in exchange of money so that those candidates can't stay in their localities.”
He demanded release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to ensure a free parliamentary election.
“She had been the head of the government for several times. Now it cannot be accepted that the leader of a party will be the chief of the government and the leader of another will be insulted by putting her behind bars.
“It was an abandoned jail [old Dhaka central jail],” the Gonoforum chief said, adding that Khaleda needed to be freed so that she along with her party men could go to people.
He criticised the government for continuing arrest of opposition leaders saying that it was “discrimination”. Thousands of people were being sent to jail and arrests were being made every day, he alleged.
“By creating such discrimination, democracy will not be restored and constitutional rule will not be established. We've already been facing anarchy in the country. In order to get rid of it, all the arrestees need to be freed.”
The veteran politician also urged the EC to cancel its decision for using Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in the national election.
SCBA President Advocate Zainul Abedin, also the convener of Jatiya Ainjibi Oikyafront, announced a list of demands which includes release of Khaleda, holding of a free and fair election, deployment of army with magistracy power, ensuring independence of judiciary and cancellation of Digital Security Act.
Pointing to the demands, Dr Kamal said, “Unity of lawyers had challenged the previous autocratic regimes. I would urge the lawyers irrespective of party affiliations to stay united to restore democracy.”
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, “We have to wage a movement once again to regain our achievements which had been achieved through the Liberation War and movements during the Pakistan period.”
“We are taking the upcoming election as a challenge. Taking the people with us, we will defeat this monstrous regime in the election.”
Expressing doubts over holding a fair election by the incumbent Election Commission, Fakhrul said, “The Election Commission could not even hold local government polls in a fair manner. How would it hold the national election in a fair manner?”
He urged the EC to ensure a level-playing field for all political parties ahead of the December 30 parliamentary polls.
Barrister Moudud Ahmed said the government tried by all means to keep the Oikyafront away from the polls, but the alliance would stay in the polls race.
Oikyafront leaders Barrister Jamir Uddin Sircar and SCBA Secretary Mahbub Uddin Khokon also addressed the programme, among others.
Talking to The Daily Star, Advocate Zainul Abedin said it was the Ainjibi Oikyafront's first national meeting with representatives from across the country. The organisation had held three smaller meetings earlier after it was floated last month, he added.