Polls under Hasina will never be fair: Khaleda

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson, Khaleda Zia, on Sunday said a fair general election is in no way possible under prime minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina.

She demanded deployment of the army personnel with magistracy power to ensure free and fair parliamentary polls.

Khaleda, a former prime minister, made clear her position on the next general elections, addressing a huge public gathering at the capital’s Suhrawardy Udyan.

Khaleda Zia came down heavily on the authorities for obstructing people from entering Dhaka to join the public rally.

Khaleda Zia came down heavily on the authorities for obstructing people from entering Dhaka to join the public rally.

The BNP organised the rally to observe the National Revolution and Solidarity Day it observes on 7 November marking the civil-military upsurge in 1975 through which its founder and late president Ziaur Rahman was freed from military captivity.

“All the roads have been blocked. Not only so, obstructions were put on my way in Gulshan with driver-less buses so that I myself cannot reach the rally ground. They [AL-led government people] have proved it today that they are so mean-minded,” alleged Khaleda and hastened to add, “Politics cannot be practised with such a narrow mind.”

The BNP leader said the AL fears the people most and that’s why it puts up such blockades, files false cases against the BNP men, and arrests them with these false cases.

“Our politics is of national unity. We’ve called for a national unity. There will be differences of opinion in a multi-party democracy, but all will have to work together for the sake of the country.

“They fear democracy, they fear people and that’s why the way they had established one-party BKSAL rule, they now want to again establish one-party rule again.

“They snatched away the people’s rights to speak. They will abduct whoever will speak up or they will land them in jail with false cases. They’ve repressed countless people over the last ten years.

“We’ve said… I’ve said that we will forgive them, but the people know how much injustice they [AL] did to them. The people don’t agree that [pardoning rulers].

“Even after that, if we want to bring back peace in politics, democracy will have to be brought back, freedom of expression should be ensured, and justice should be delivered,” said Khaleda.

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia speaks at a public rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on Sunday. Prothom Alo gets this picture from BNP

She alleged that the ruling party men go off scot-free even committing murder. “On the other hand, our people are arrested, being implicated in false cases. They are taken to police station and they are shot in their legs. They’ve maimed numerous youths. They made numerous youths to disappear. They killed scores of youths.

“Today people from house to house are wailing. They want to get rid of them [AL]. People want change. And that change will have to be brought through elections.

“That’s why, people’s voting right which was snatched away by this government should be given back. In order to ensure that the people get back their rights, the general elections should be held under a non-partisan neutral poll-time government.

“An atmosphere should be created for a fair election, because no fair election can be held under Hasina. They rigged even the local government elections. Awami League hoodlums drive away agents of their rival candidates’ agents,” she added.

Khaleda alleged that the AL wants to hold an election forcibly to cling on to power.

Calling on the election commission to take initiatives to install a party-neutral election-time government, she said, “It is your responsibility to ensure a fair election. EVM should not be used.

“As our politics is for the people, we said the people’s voting rights must be ensured so that mother, father, sister, brother, and all the citizens of my country can exercise their franchise without any fear,” said Khaleda.

Demanding army deployment in the next 11th general elections with magistracy power, Khaleda questioned why the election commission says that the army cannot be deployed and the EVM will be used.

“It suggests that the EC wants to do whatever the government is saying. There should be no use of EVM and armed forces will have to be deployed with magistracy power in the general elections.

“Hasina’s hoodlums carry illegal arms as well. They are killing and abducting people. If the armed forces are deployed, Hasina’s hoodlums will capture the polling stations. That’s why we have said army should be deployed with magistracy power so that they can move around freely,” said Khaleda.

In reaction to the AL’s allegation that the BNP kills people, Khaleda claimed that her party never indulges in the politics of killing people. “It’s rather you [AL] who all along did the politics of killing people, ranging from introduction of BKSAL [to the 2014 one-sided election without voters].”

Speaking about the AL “misdeeds”, Khaleda said, “Today I am demanding a caretaker government system. The question is who demanded it first. Were not AL and Jamaat-e-Islami who demanded a caretaker government first? They enforced general strikes for as much as 173 days for realising their demand for the caretaker government. They created reign of terror during the general strikes. They beat up office goers. They stripped off clothes of a government official as well. This is the character of Awami League.”

She went on saying, “Who set fire to buses? It’s the AL which put buses on fire. AL burnt people to death by setting fire to bus by gunpowder. There is no end of Awami League’s misdeeds.”

BNP rally

She alleged the AL filed false cases against the BNP men after setting fire to buses.

Calling on the AL to hold a fair election to judge what the people of the country want, Khaleda said, “The 5 January 2014 election was not an election as such. So, this government as well as this parliament are totally illegitimate.”

Khaleda Zia praised the AL general secretary, Obaidul Quader, for speaking some truth and said, “He said they will have to stay in the power to save their back. I want to say that we are not like you people. We want to purge you. We will try to make you true humans. That’s why you’ll have to come to people.”

Asking AL senior leaders to raise voice for a neutral polls, she said, “Those of you are senior, you understand the pulse of the people. People want a neutral election. A neutral election cannot be held under a partisan government, not to speak of a government led by Hasina.”

Khaleda also threw a challenge to her arch-rival to judge her popularity by holding a neutral election.

“The country is not moving. Nothing is working here. There is no government in place. So, only a fair election can solve all the crises.”

Khaleda alleged that the AL government has destroyed this country. “It promised that it will ensure rice at Tk 10 a kg, but my question is: Why do the people need to buy rice at Tk 70 a kg. The price of every essential commodity has gone beyond the reach of the commoners,” added Khaleda.

Recalling an election pledge of the AL that it will ensure jobs for youths in every house, the BNP leader said it has rather presented every house with unemployment.

Dwelling on government’s development claim, the former prime minister alleged the AL is rather looting public money in the name of development.

“The construction cost here in Bangladesh is three-time that in the European countries. They deceive people in every step. How long can these deception, repression and oppression last? It cannot last for long.”

She alleged that the AL’s student wing Bangladesh Chhatra League is creating a reign of terror in the educational institutions across the country by indulging in crimes like violence against women and assaulting teachers.

Calling on the AL to bring an end to the “politics of abduction and killing”, Khaleda said, “Many of our youths have remained missing for long. Their only offence is they do politics of the BNP.

Shedding light on the judiciary, the former prime minister said the country’s chief justice is sent abroad forcibly. “Again, he is forced to resign by sending agency people abroad.”

Khaleda claimed that the just-resigned chief justice, Surendra Kumar Sinha, wanted to return to the country. “But he was not allowed to return. Pressure was mounted on him to resign, because he speaks some truth. This is the situation.

“Whenever AL comes to power, scams happen in the share market. We never heard that Bangladeshis deposit money with Swiss banks. Since this Awami League came to power, its ministers and MPs deposited money with the Swiss banks. Corruption is unbridled and all pervasive.”

Quoting a study of a private organisation, Khaleda said as much as Tk 4.5 trillion has been siphoned off from the country in the last ten years.

She said unemployment allowance will be given to those youths if the BNP comes back to power.

Khaleda Zia-led BNP, its alliance and all major opposition parties boycotted the previous elections held on 5 January 2014, demanding installation of an election-time caretaker government.

On Sunday, the BNP was allowed holding such a big gathering in the capital after about one and a half years. The Dhaka metropolitan police, however, put as many as 23 conditions while allowing the gathering.

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