By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Leaders and activists of Bangladesh’s main opposition party warned the government Monday that a neutral caretaker government must be formed to conduct the country’s general elections, which are due to be held in December.
As part of a series of protests, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) held a grand rally in the Naya Paltan neighborhood in central Dhaka in front of the party’s headquarters which was attended by tens of thousands of supporters.
“The previous history of the ruling Awami League party was against democracy. On Jan. 24, 1975, the then Awami League government killed democracy, establishing one-party rule and banning all other political parties. The current Awami League is also trying to go down the same path. So we demand (the government) to hand over power to a neutral caretaker government before the next national elections,” BNP Standing Committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said while addressing the demonstration.
To press home their demands, which also include the release of all detained party leaders including former prime minister and party chief Begum Khaleda Zia, Hossain declared that mass rallies will be held in all districts across the country including the capital Dhaka on Jan. 25.
The opposition supporters also formed a big procession, carrying anti-government banners and marching through the streets in Naya Paltan.
“Countrymen have no amount of trust in the fascist Awami League government regarding fair elections,” BNP leader and former lawmaker Helen Zerin Khan told Anadolu, standing in the street before the procession.
Addressing the incumbent government as thieves of votes, the BNP supporters chanted slogans demanding the installation of a caretaker government, the control of price hikes of daily commodities including electricity and protecting human rights.
- No fair elections under partisan government
Speaking to Anadolu, local government and election expert Badiul Alam Majumder said in Bangladesh’s history, the country has never had any fair and uncontroversial elections under a partisan government.
“To date, the country has recorded a total of 11 national elections, and of these, four were held under a neutral caretaker government. Except for those four elections, all were marred by irregularities. So the reality is that without a neutral election-time government system, no fair elections can be expected in Bangladesh,” said Majumder, who is also the founder-secretary of the civil society organization Citizens for Good Governance (SHUJAN).
The ruling Awami League party, however, has brushed aside the demand for a caretaker government at various public functions.
Addressing a political rally Monday, Awami League Joint Secretary General Mahbubul Alam Hanif warned of the halting of the opposition movement through the organizing of pro-government mass rallies and the terming of a caretaker government as unconstitutional.
“When the government is pushing the country on the way to progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the BNP is trying to create anarchy across the country in the name of the movement,” Hanif alleged.
Meanwhile, visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu called on Bangladeshi authorities to ensure the next general elections are fair.
“(We have) told Donald Lu about fair, impartial and sound elections,” Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said while addressing a public rally in Dhaka on Monday.
The South Asian country will hold its 12th national elections in December or January next year, which the ruling Awami League government wants to hold under the administration of incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which the opposition parties have vehemently rejected.