The government must release BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail to show its intent on holding a fair and acceptable national election, the BNP said yesterday.
“We clearly say that the election will never be acceptable to people if Khaleda Zia is in jail,” said BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Addressing a human chain programme in front of the Jatiya Press Club, Fakhrul said, “The government must release our leader [Khaleda] from jail. If they do so, we will understand they want an acceptable election.”
The party formed the human chain as a part of its two-day countrywide programme demanding release of Khaleda, who has been in prison since February 8 after a special court sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The BNP got permission verbally from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police to form the human chain from 11:00am to 12:00 noon. Party leaders and activists started thronging the spot since 10:00am and at one stage, vehicular movement halted there.
A large number of law enforcers with an armoured personnel carrier and water-cannon equipped riot vehicle were seen in and around the venue.
Plainclothes police detained some BNP leaders and activists from the human chain programme.
Abul Hasan, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station, said some people were arrested from Segunbagicha area, but he did not say the number.
To avoid arrest, BNP leaders and activists started leaving the place 20 minutes before the end of the programme.
Party's senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said around 200 party men were held.
BNP leaders also demanded formation of a non-partisan neutral administration to hold an inclusive election, dissolving of parliament and cabinet before announcement of election schedule and deployment of the army during the polls and reconstitution of the Election Commission.
Besides, they reiterated their demand of treating Khaleda at a private hospital.
Referring to Khaleda's call for a greater national unity to oust the government, Fakhrul said, “We need a very strong unity. Our party people and all political parties will unite to form a pro-people government and restore democracy by removing the current monstrous government.”
“We want the release of Khaleda. We are not seeking any favours. It is her right to get bail and we want that,” Fakhrul said.
Alleging that the government is filing “ghost cases” against BNP men, he claimed that around one lakh people were accused in various cases in the last couple of days and some 12,000 were arrested.
BNP Standing Committee member Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain said all demands of the people should be met before the polls schedule is announced. “Otherwise, people forging a national unity will wage a movement to oust the government.”
He said no participatory election could be held without Khaleda.
In Chittagong, BNP leaders formed a human chain in Kazir Dewri area in front of the office of Chittagong city unit BNP. Several hundred leaders and activists of BNP and its associate organisations attended the programme.
Shahadat Hossain, president of Chittagong city unit BNP, said Khaleda was “deprived of” better treatment.
In Gazipur, nine BNP leaders and activists were detained when they were holding the programme.
They formed a human chain in front of the office of Gazipur district unit BNP on Rajbari Road. They also brought out a procession which was obstructed by police, triggering a clash, witnesses said.
Gazipur district BNP President Fazlul Huq Milon claimed that 15 party men were injured as police suddenly attacked their peaceful procession.
Golam Sabur, additional superintendent of Gazipur police, said the BNP men started throwing brick chunks at police, and police charged truncheons on them.
Our correspondents in Chittagong and Gazipur contributed to this report.