The government would have to face unimaginable “punishment” if it did not meet the Jatiya Oikyafront's demand for fair polls, said Dr Kamal Hossain, a top leader of the alliance, at a rally in Chattogram yesterday.
Warning the government of consequences, several leaders asked it to announce the national polls schedule after consulting with the alliance.
“As per the constitution, people are the owners of the country and the government is just for serving them. However, now the government is posing as the owner,” said Dr Kamal.
He asked the crowd to raise their hands in support of their seven-point demand. When they did so, he said, “Meet the seven-point demand. Otherwise, you [the government] will face such a punishment that you cannot even imagine.”
The seven-point demand include holding of the election under a non-partisan interim government, dissolution of parliament before the polls, reconstitution of Election Commission with people of good credentials, and deployment of the Army with magistracy power during the polls.
“They [government] have taken the oath to uphold the constitution but they are violating it every day. They will have to be punished for this,” he said addressing the rally as the chief guest on Nur Ahmed Road in Kazir Dewri.
“They in 2014 said the polls held then was for an interim period. But they spent five years without holding the next polls, which is a serious offence and they will have to be held accountable for it,” he said.
Regarding the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, Dr Kamal said, “... the government is liable for every hour of her imprisonment.”
“Whenever the people united, they made everything possible ... people would do it this time too,” Dr Kamal said.
From different parts of the city, the leaders and activists of the Oikyafront started converging on Nur Ahmed Road in small processions around 10:30am yesterday even though the rally was scheduled for 2:00pm.
By 1:00pm, a huge crowd had gathered as leaders and activists from different upazilas and adjacent districts joined the rally braving alleged obstruction by police and ruling party men.
Police kept one side of Nur Ahmed Road open to traffic. As a result, people were packed in about half a kilometre stretch of the road from the stage.
Large banners and festoons were seen hanging around the venue demanding release of Khaleda, BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman, standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury and other leaders.
In the morning, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Moudud Ahmed and Mirza Abbas, and Vice-Chairman Abdullah Al Noman offered fateha at the shrine of Shah Amanat (RA).
Since morning, the number of private vehicles on city streets was fewer than normal.
Addressing the rally, Fakhrul said no autocratic government could stay in office suppressing the people or survive using muscle power and firearms.
If people could exercise their franchise, the Awami League would face a debacle. “That's why they are so frightened,” he said.
“We have sacrificed so much; many of our leaders have been victims of forced disappearances and murders, and many are languishing in jail.
“We will not bow down to injustice any more ... we will only return home after our seven-point demand is met,” he added.
Fakhrul also criticised the government for implicating Tarique Rahman, now in London, in false and politically motivated cases. He said all efforts to keep him abroad would go in vain.
About civil servants, BNP central standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said, “You are not the servants of the government, but of the people.”
“It is the last time Hasina is in office and the civil servants should ignore directives of the government and stand beside the people,” he said.
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said, “The government had enacted Digital Security Act and Broadcast Act with the ill motive of keeping the media mum before the polls.”
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President ASM Abdur Rab urged the government to hold dialogues with them before declaring the election schedule, otherwise “the government would be liable for the consequences”.
“You will have to leave power. Filing cases and persecution will bring no result,” he added.
Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convenor of Nagarik Okiya, said the government has been saying that the election would be held under the Hasina administration, but “we are saying that election would be held after ousting them from power”.
He criticised the government for keeping Khaleda in prison.
Zafarullah Chowdhury of Gonoshasthaya Kendra said more intellectuals and politicians, including former president Badruddoza Chowdhury, would join the Oikyafront in 10 days.
Unlike any other leaders on the rally stage, former Ducsu VP and former AL leader Sultan Mohammed Mansur was wearing a “Mujib Coat”. He said BNP founder Ziaur Rahman proclaimed the independence on behalf of Bangabandhu on March 27 and there's no way to distort history.
Like in the Sylhet rally of Oikyafront, he ended his speech saying, "Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu."
BNP standing committee members Mirza Abbas and Abdul Moin Khan, vice-chairmen Abdullah Al Noman, former AL leader Sultan Mohammed Mansur, Kalyan Party Chairman Syed Mohammad Ibrahim and Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Redwan Ahmed addressed the rally presided over by city BNP president Shahadat Hossain.
OBSTACLES ON THE WAY
The leaders and activists of Oikyafront who joined the rally from different upazilas alleged that they faced obstacles and threats from ruling party men and police.
Idris Mia, vice-president of Chattogram district (South) BNP and former upazila chairman of Patiya, said they paid in advance to rent four buses and four microbuses two days ago so that they could join the rally.
The bus owners returned the money on Friday saying there was mounting pressure on them from the administration and the police, Idris alleged. He said eventually they had to use autorickshaws to get to the rally venue.
Anwara upazila Jubo Dal leader Md Salauddin alleged that they had to take detours on sideroads to avoid police harassment.
Humayun Kabir, former general secretary of Chattogram district (south) BNP, told The Daily Star that when they were on their way to the rally, police took away their banner in DC Hill area.
Chattogram district (north) BNP Vice-President Afsar Uddin Helal told The Daily Star that police took position at every intersection of Fatikchhari upazila to prevent BNP activists from attending the rally.
Nure Alam Mina, superintendent of police in Chattogram, told The Daily Star that police did not intercept any activists of the BNP. “Their claims are baseless,” he said.