No caretaker, no polls
The much-talked-about road march of the opposition demanding restoration of caretaker system reached Sylhet last night amid enthusiastic participation of thousands of party leaders, activists and supporters.
Led by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, the caravan started around 10:45am from the party's Naya Paltan headquarters and arrived in the venue of first roadside rally at Narayanganj around noon.
Khaleda is scheduled to address another rally at Sylhet Alia Madrasa Maidan today.
About three thousand vehicles carried at least 15 thousands members of the party from the capital, leading to a collapse of Dhaka-Sylhet highway traffic.
The public transport came to a halt as the motorcade headed towards the northeastern divisional headquarter to the sufferings of both Dhaka and Sylhet going passengers.
Khaleda's motorcade took about six hours to reach Narshingdi and during this time the capital-bound vehicles could hardly move.
The BNP chief addressed six roadside meetings and reiterated the demand of a non-partisan caretaker overseeing the next parliamentary elections and threatened to declare a “final action” after her road marches.
"The election cannot be held under a political government; there has to be a non-party caretaker administration,” Khaleda said while addressing her first rally at Torab Bus Stand intersection in Rupganj, Narayanganj.
“A neutral election commission is also a must for free and fair polls," she added. Terming the present commission biased, the opposition leader said, "We will not accept polls under such a partial commission."
While Khaleda Zia, also the leader of the opposition in the House, takes a tough stance on any parliamentary election under a partisan government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina maintains the next general polls will be held under the present administration as the court declared the provision of the caretaker system illegal.
The BNP chief yesterday called upon the people to join the opposition's agitation to compel the government to meet the demands.
She alleged the ruling party has fooled people by its election pledges to cut rice prices to Tk 10 a kg and to ensure free fertiliser and job for every family of the country.
Popularity of the government has been waning since the people no longer support it, Khaleda said, adding the government is busy to serve a neighbouring country instead of working for the people.
As the opposition marched on, supporters on roadsides chanted slogans holding placards, banners and portraits of late president Ziaur Rahman, Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman. Many were seen presenting sheaf of paddy to their leader.
A smiling Khaleda responded to crowd at different places on her way to Sylhet by waving hands from her jeep.
Security was tight and Rab and police escorted the convoy.
Leaders of the BNP-led four-party alliance components and like-minded parties -- Jamaat Ameer (acting) Maqbul Ahmad, BJP Chairman Andaleev Rahman Partha, Khelafat Majlish Ameer Moulana M Ishaque and Islami Oikya Jote Secretary General Abdul Latif Nezami, LDP President Col (retd) Oli Ahmed and Jagpa President Shafiul Alam Prodhan joined the march.
After addressing at Narayanganj, Khaleda addressed five more rallies at Narshingdi, Kishoreganj, at Brahmanbaria, Habiganj and Moulavibazar.
She also placed floral wreath at a monument to late BNP leader M Saifur Rahman at Ashuganj.
While speaking at Bhairab, the BNP chief said they are involving people with their activities through road marches and declare the final round of agitation after completing these programmes.
"People have run out of patience as they are not well at all. They have no security and the government has failed in all sectors," she said.
Corruption has pervaded the government machinery at all levels, she added. "The Padma bridge project has been stalled by the World Bank amid graft allegations.”
Khaleda Zia on September 27 from a grand rally in the capital declared three road marches towards Sylhet, Rajshahi and Chittagong to mount pressure on the government for reinstatement of caretaker system, which was scrapped by fifteenth amendment to the charter.
Later the party postponed Chittagong road march considering hajj and Eid-ul-Azha. They will march to Rajshahi on October 18.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the party' acting secretary general, said Khaleda will lead road marches towards Chittagong, Barisal, Khulna and Rangpur after the Eid.