Jatiya Oikyafront has threatened to intensify agitation through a series of programmes, including a road march towards Rajshahi from the capital tomorrow, if the ruling Awami League does not accept its proposals in their second round of parley today.
The Oikyafront, an alliance of the BNP and several other parties, made the announcement from a rally at the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan yesterday afternoon.
Its top leaders called upon the activists of the combine's components to prepare for the national election and agitation simultaneously.
The rally was held around 18 hours before an 11-member delegation of the alliance sits with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other ruling party leaders to discuss some contentious issues relating to the polls.
If the discussion fails to yield a positive outcome, the Oikyafront will take to the streets tomorrow morning and march towards Rajshahi for mobilising public support to put pressure on the government for ensuring a free and fair parliamentary election, said leaders of the new combine.
This means when Hasina will be speaking at a press conference tomorrow disclosing the outcomes of the AL's week-long talks with several opposition parties, Oikyafront leaders will be on the streets if their dialogue with the ruling party fails.
The opposition alliance could march towards the Election Commission on November 10, and hold rallies in Khulna, Barishal and Mymensingh next week, depending on the outcome of today's dialogue, said sources in the combine.
In today's talks at the Gono Bhaban, the Oikyafront is likely to place proposals for dissolution of parliament before the polls and downsizing the Hasina-led cabinet to 20-22. It may also suggest inclusion of at least two Oikyafront leaders in her cabinet as technocrats, added the sources.
The Oikyafront's announcement of holding the rally came on November 2, a day after its first round of talks with the ruling party, which it said could not resolve some contentious issues.
At yesterday's rally, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, “We will sit with you [the PM] again tomorrow [today]. We expect that you will accept our demands in the interest of the country and its people.”
Saying his party believes in the concept of resolving a problem through talks, he urged the government to dissolve parliament and form an election-time government for holding the general election in a free, fair and inclusive manner.
"Otherwise, we along with the people will ensure that the government is unseated.”
Addressing the rally, Dr Kamal Hossain, a top leader of the platform, said, "You have joined the rally defying all sorts of obstacles. Keep your head high and stand strong like today. We cannot accept such misrule anymore."
Demanding Khaleda's unconditional release, the eminent jurist said it is not possible to uphold democracy and constitution, humiliating the opposition leaders.
"Harassment has to stop. Even an elected government cannot do it. You are unelected. It is a crime. You will be held accountable for this one day.
"The state does not belong to any king or queen. It is the people who are the sole owner of the state and their ownership must be materialised. And as the owner, we will remain united," said Kamal, also president of the Gono Forum.
He also requested people to guard the polling stations on the election day.
"Guarding polling centres means guarding the independence. You are the owners of the country. You need to wake up to establish your ownership.”
The country's independence would be meaningless if there is no fair election, he noted.
“We will remain united and make decisions collectively no matter what trouble we face.
"We have to take oath that we will continue the movement without any compromise to rescue the country from a dreadful situation," added Kamal.
Since 12:00pm, hundreds of BNP leaders and activists started gathering at the venue with placards, banners and posters of party founder Ziaur Rahman and Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The rally started around 1:30pm with recitation from the holy Quran.
It was Oikyafront's third rally; the first one was in Sylhet on October 24 and the second one in Chattogram on October 27.
Top leaders of the combine alleged that their leaders and activists were barred in many places from joining the rally.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President ASM Abdur Rab urged the government to release Khaleda from jail and allow the opposition parties to join the election.
"Resign from parliament and form a small government. If a free and fair election is not held, it is you [the PM] who will be affected more than anyone."
Krishak Sramik Janata League President Kader Siddique said both success and failure of the movement depend on the people. “If you want success, come under the platform [the Oikyafront].”
Kader, who joined the Oikyafront on Monday, alleged that it is the AL, not the BNP, which allowed Razakars to fly the national flag in their vehicles.
Referring to the Hefajat mayhem in 2013, he said, “If we fail to take revenge for the bloodshed at Shapla Chattar, we will be treated as betrayers.”
He said Khaleda became an icon of democracy after she was sent to jail. “We know that it is not possible to hold Bangladesh captive and also Khaleda.”
BNP Standing Committee Member Moudud Ahmed said they shunned the path of confrontation and called for dialogue to resolve the crisis as the party believes in peaceful solutions to any problem.
"If the talks fail, we will have no other option but to launch a movement. If we take to the streets, the government will be ousted within 24 hours.
“If the talks turn out to be a farce, we have to resist the government.”
BNP Standing Committee Member Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain said, “In the first round of talks, we did not get any solution. It was meaningless. We do not want to be trapped. Don't try to fool us. Give us solution or else get ready to face a movement.”
Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said, “We are good human beings and do not want any violence. You [the government] have to give assurance in writing that no new case will be filed [against opposition activists] and that there will be no arrest."
Manna, also a top leader of the Oikyafront, accused the government of trying to kill Khaleda by keeping her in jail.
“We will have Khaleda released at any cost. If needed, we will sacrifice our lives.”
BNP Standing Committee Member Goyeshwar Chandra Roy said the BNP chief has the right to get bail.
“We do not want any sympathy. We do not want parole. Khaleda should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Oikyafront leader Sultan Mohammad Mansur said, “When people get united, victory is certain. We may have to take a tough line to materialise our demands ... We have to be ready for this.”