Leaders at the Jatiya Oikyafront's maiden public rally yesterday asked people to unite for ensuring a free and fair election and “restoring” their right to vote.
They said they would wage a peaceful movement to realise their seven-point demand and achieve their 11 goals. They urged the government to have dialogues with the opposition parties for the sake of free and fair polls.
"We are now united and our victory is sure and certain," said Dr Kamal Hossain, a top leader of the alliance, while addressing the rally at Sylhet's Registrar's Office ground in Bandarbazar.
"People should unite, not political parties. The people are the owners of the country and you have to strengthen people's unity to restore this ownership," said Dr Kamal, also president of the Gonoforum.
There is no alternative to people's unity for "ousting the autocratic government from office", he said.
He urged all to spread the message of the seven-point demand and 11 goals to villages, upazilas, and districts and make people realise that the country belongs to them.
The seven-point demand includes holding of the election under a nonpartisan interim government, and dissolution of parliament and deployment of the army before the polls.
Rejecting the ruling party's claims of carrying out massive development work in the country, Dr Kamal said some people received the fruits of development, but not all the people of the nation. "It cannot be called development. We want development of the 16 crore people and thus we have to be united."
He thanked the people for attending the rally overcoming various obstacles.
Addressing the rally, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, “We will restore democracy and our voting rights through a peaceful movement.”
Through this movement, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and other detained political leaders would be released from jail before the announcement of the election schedule, he said.
He said the government must resign, parliament should be dissolved and the Election Commission reconstituted before the polls schedule is announced. Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) should not be used in the polls, he added.
“We will not allow digital election rigging.”
Yesterday's rally was the first public appearance of the alliance since its formation on October 13. All top leaders of the alliance were on stage.
The BNP men thronged the venue in small processions around 1:00pm. Many of them came from adjacent districts. A large number of them carried banners, festoons and placards demanding release of Khaleda Zia.
Huge banners were seen hung in the meeting area demanding withdrawal of cases against BNP leader Tarique Rahman and other senior leaders of the party.
An Awami League procession with about 500 people went by the venue around 12:45pm without any untoward incident.
Before the rally, top leaders of the election-oriented alliance offered fateha at the shrines of Hazrat Shah Jalal (RA) and Hazrat Shah Paran (RA).
Speakers at the rally that began at 2:00pm, alleged that the alliance leaders and activists were obstructed at different places so that they could not join the rally. Vehicular movement was restricted and buses were checked, they said, adding that even three-wheelers were stopped.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President ASM Abdur Rab alleged that the country was in the grip of robbers and the people should unite and take to the street to realise the seven-point demand and free the country from the clutches of the robbers.
“The government is provoking us to become violent. You have to have patience. We will wage a peaceful agitation,” he said.
BNP standing committee member Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain said the government wants to hold another lopsided election like that of 2014 fearing a crushing defeat in the upcoming polls.
“We will contest the election and form the peoples' government … .”
Another standing committee member of the party, Moudud Ahmed, said the government would be forced to go for a negotiation with the opposition parties in the face of a tough anti-government movement.
The former law minister said they would prepare a whitepaper on the government's corruption when they assume power.
Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna urged the government to hold dialogues with the opposition parties.
“If it is not done, we know how to oust a government.”
He claimed that the government was hatching a conspiracy to have another “walkover election” like that of the January 5, 2014. “We don't want to create any chaotic situation. But, we will never allow the government to go unchallenged this time.”
Zafrullah Chowdhury, one of the key people of the Oikyafront, asked people to raise their voices for a general election under a non-partisan interim government.
Oikyafront leader Sultan Md Monsur Ahmed, also a former Awami League leader, said the government must resign before the announcement of election schedule. He and Mostafa Mohsin Montu ended their speeches chanting “Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu”.
Sylhet city Mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury chaired the event.