60-hr hartal demanding talks
The opposition has called a 60-hour hartal (shutdown) from Sunday morning, giving the government a two-day ultimatum to initiate a dialogue on a neutral election-time government.
Opposition leader Khaleda Zia made the announcement from a huge anti-government rally at Suhrawardy Udyan this afternoon.
"Let us amend the constitution together. We will need a minor amendment to implement the proposal I have made," she said addressing the government.
Opposition leader Khaleda Zia addresses an anti-government rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital on Friday afternoon. Photo: Amran Hossain
The opposition leader said this referring to her formula of a polls-time government comprising 10 advisers from among those who were on the 1996 and 2001 caretaker governments and a respected acceptable citizen as the head of that government.
Pointing out that there is not much time left to act to solve the prevailing political impasse, the BNP chairperson said the government would have to act within a couple of days.
"If you do not act within these two days, we will have to go for straight-cut programmes," she said.
Thousands of opposition activists cheered at this time at the prospect of tougher agitation programmes, some demanding shutdowns.
Responding to them, Khaleda said: "In a primary programme, we will enforce a three-day hartal from Sunday morning."
She alleged that the Awami League-led grand alliance government has not worked to ensure the rights of the people rather concentrated to protect the party's interest.
"This government arrests people when they try to hold meetings and rallies. They are out to violate people's rights, not to ensure those," said the BNP chairperson.
She reached Suhrawardy Udyan around 4:00pm.
BNP Dhaka city unit Convener Sadek Hossain Khoka presided over the rally.
The BNP-led 18-party opposition held the rally to show of its strength as it pursues the government to install a neutral polls-time government.
Braving drizzle that continues since the morning, hundreds of opposition workers -- mainly of BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami, and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir -- reached the rally venue.
Though the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), while issuing permission, slapped a condition that no processions could be brought out, opposition men, especially the Shibir men, marched the streets with processions.
There was however no reports of law enforcers or any other quarters obstructing the opposition workers.
A huge contingent of police and members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) were deployed in and around the rally venue.
With the rally scheduled to begin at 2:00pm, thousands of workers gathered at Matsya Bhaban.
"We will start marching towards Suhrawardy Udyan before the rally begins," a BNP ward-level leader told reporters.
After a daylong drama, the opposition alliance last night decided to hold the rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in keeping with the DMP permission.
Tension ran high as the opposition announced last evening that it would organise the programme in Nayapaltan area, while the DMP said it would allow the opposition only at Suhrawardy Udyan.