BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday demanded the next parliamentary polls be held under a non-partisan government, claiming that no fair election would be possible with Sheikh Hasina in power.
She also demanded deployment of the army with magistracy power to maintain law and order and ensure a free, fair and credible election.
“They [the Awami League] do not understand that there is no pleasure in winning polls by fraudulence," she said at a rally in the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan.
She also urged the Election Commission (EC) to talk about polls under a non-partisan government.
"I will tell the Chief Election Commissioner [CEC] and other election commissioners that it is their job to hold a free and fair election in the country."
Following a lengthy political turmoil, a non-partisan election-time caretaker government system was introduced in 1996. But the constitutional provisions for the system were scrapped in 2011 by the then Awami League-led government. The BNP's demand for restoration of the provisions was rejected by the government. Protesting this, the BNP-led alliance boycotted the 10th parliamentary elections held in January 2014.
According to the current constitutional provisions, the government-led by Sheikh Hasina will remain the prime minister during the next parliamentary election scheduled to be held at the end of 2018 or early 2019.
The BNP has been asking for an election-time non-partisan government. But the ruling party's position remains unchanged.
Khaleda's strong opposition to the election with Hasina in power comes against this backdrop.
“Election will not be held under Hasina,” the BNP chief said at the rally.
She said the BNP had placed some proposals before the EC and urged it to accept the proposals for an inclusive and fair election.
She also said that she preferred army deployment over electronic voting machines (EVM).
“Why does the CEC talk about EVMs? It means that they listen to the government. EVMs will not do. Amry should be deployed for the polls.”
Khaleda added that she does not oppose police presence during the polls. “But Hasina's cadres have got arms, with which they are regularly killing people. If the army is not deployed, they will take over the polling stations. The army must be engaged and given power, so that they can work.”
Holding the rally in Dhaka after 18 months, Khaleda called for national unity to bring what she called a qualitative change in politics.
Khaleda also urged the AL to “learn its actual popularity” by holding the next election under a neutral government. “People are waiting for a change in power.
“We say, you have been in power by force for a long time.”
The AL, she said, is so engaged in killing, enforced disappearances and other misdeeds that if voted to power, her party will purify AL.
“Unlike you, we will not do politics of vengeance. Unlike you, we will not pick people up, put them in jail or kill them. We do not pursue the politics of violence.
“But we want to purify you. We will launch a purge to do so... .We will try to turn you into true human beings.”
She started her hour-long speech with an allegation that the government blocked roads and suspended traffic at different points to keep the BNP leaders and activists from joining the rally.
“They [ruling party] even tried to create obstacles for me on the road. Empty buses were parked on the road. They have shown how mean they are. It is not possible to do politics or do something good for the country with such mean-mindedness.”
People heading towards Dhaka suffered a lot as transport services from nearby districts were disrupted. People in the capital suffered shortage of transport as well.
The former premier urged political parties to unite, acknowledging that there would be differences of opinion in multi-party democracy. “But we all need to unite for the interest of the country and the people.”
She alleged that the government was afraid of people's representation in democracy. That is why the AL is trying to restore one-party ruling system Baksal.
Khaleda said she pardoned the AL for its misdeeds but did not know whether people of the country will do the same.
“I say, to bring back the congenial atmosphere of the country and to bring back democracy, good governance, rule of law and accountability, a change is required.
“Election is the only way to bring that change. Voting rights should be returned,” she said, adding that a neutral administration ensured that people could cast their votes without fear.
Describing what she said a gloomy picture of the country's economy and financial institutions, the former premier alleged that the ruling party men has been plundering public money and national resources in the name of development.
Citing different international organisations' data, Khaleda said money was being siphoned off the country and invested in off-shore companies. Names of people appeared on “Panama Papers”, but no action was taken.
The BNP chief also alleged that Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha was sent abroad forcibly and that he wanted to return home.
“Sinha has spoken some truth. That is why he was forced to resign. He said a few days ago that the lower court is controlled by the government that now wants to control the apex court as well.”
Saying that Rohingya influx was a big problem for the country, Khaleda called upon the USA, UK, European Union, China, India and Russia to mount pressure on the Myanmar government to take Rohingyas back to their motherland.
Although the rally was scheduled for 2:00pm, party leaders and activists began to arrive at the venue since morning. It was almost full by 3:00pm. Wearing a white saree, Khaleda took the stage at around 3.30pm as party leaders and activists cheered.
The banner on the stage read, public meeting demanding restoration of democracy and free and fair election on the occasion of national revolution and solidarity day.
The BNP leaders and activists thronged the venue carrying placards, festoons, and colourful pictures of party founder Ziaur Rahman, Khaleda Zia and Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman. Aspirant candidates showed off of their followers to be noticed by the party high ups.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir chaired the programme.