Unmet expectations of BNP grass roots activists at Oikya Front rally

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BNP activists and leaders with banners demanding Khaleda Zia’s release at the Jatiya Oikya Front rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Tuesday’s rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka was the third to be held by the newly formed political alliance ‘Jatiya Oikya Front’ since its inception on October 13

Grassroots BNP activists and leaders left the Jatiya Oikya Front rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on Tuesday with unmet expectations about the push to release party Chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail before the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The party faithful turned out in huge numbers in the hope of hearing top BNP leaders including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir call for a stronger movement to free Khaleda, who has been in jail since February.

“My expectations were not met at all; I was hoping that there would be a call for a strong movement to release Khaleda Zia,” Samim Ahmed, a BNP supporter, said.

“I do, however, understand their ‘going slow’ policy regarding the issue for a better outcome in the long run.”

Tuesday’s rally at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka was the third to be held by the newly formed political alliance since its inception on October 13, and saw veteran freedom fighter Kader Siddique presented as a new member.

The show of unity and strength came on the eve of the second round of talks on Wednesday between Jatiya Oikya Front leader Dr Kamal Hossain and his fellow leaders and the government, led by Prime Minister Sheik Hasina.

“Today’s rally proved that BNP is still popular with the number of people coming from all over the country, even though there has been no end to their harassment by the law enforcement agencies,” another BNP activist, Sayem Ahmed, told the Dhaka Tribune.

“The alliance with Jatiya Oikya Front is a good start. We may have a difference in opinions and different political views but the common goal for both parties is to establish democracy and voting rights in Bangladesh.”

Khaleda must lead party, say activists

Grassroots BNP leaders and activists say that even though they want to participate in the polls, they are more focused on securing the release of Khaleda, who is serving a total of 17 years in prison following guilty verdicts in two corruption cases filed against her.

“The cases filed against our party chairperson are totally false,” the assistant general secretary of the Central Unit of Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal (JCD), Arifa Sultana Ruma, said.

“As a party we want to participate in this election with our chairperson. I believe that if the court can work independently then our chairperson will have justice.

“Without Khaleda Zia, the election will be not acceptable to the people of Bangladesh.”

Jatiya Oikya Front rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on Tuesday, November 6, 2018  |Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The president of Satla Union BNP and former vice-president of Wazirpur Upazila BNP, A K M Nurul Haque, said the polls would be unfair without their chairperson running.

“Equal opportunity and level playing field have to be ensured by the government,” he said. “In spite of hundreds of restrictions, we are always ready for election because BNP is an election-oriented party.”

Khandakar Turag, a local activist of JCD, Narayanganj District unit said that during the January 5, 2014 election, the ruling party was elected constitutionally but not with the direct vote of the people.

“We will not participate in the elections without our chairperson Khaleda Zia,” he said. “We are fully prepared for running in the elections but if it is done the same way it was in 2014 then we will have to oppose it.”

The way forward

On Sunday, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader indicated that BNP can demand Khaleda’s release on parole on medical grounds.

BNP grassroots leaders and activists think their leader’s release also depends on political negotiation between the Awami League and Jatiya Oikya Front.

They also said the newly formed alliance with Jatiya Oikya Front led by eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain, where BNP is a key ally, is a positive development and their current 7-point demand is fully supported by them.

BNP activists also warned that if the BNP chairperson is not released from prison either by the court or through political negotiation, they will embark on a stronger movement.

‘False’ cases and arrests

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has alleged that 2,570,547 of the party’s leaders and activists have been implicated in false cases in the past 10 years.

He told a press briefing on October 6 that as many as 276,277 people were accused in 4,149 fictitious cases filed between September 1 and October 5 alone.

The grassroots leaders want a High Court order to investigate these “false” cases but are increasingly afraid of being arrested themselves.

These leaders and activists said that they are waiting for a decision from the central leaders on the participating in the upcoming election before they can go canvassing.

Source: Dhaka Tribune.

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