By- Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury | Date- September 29, 2011
Most of the ruling party pundits predicted in public that the four party alliance led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] will fail to finally stage a “sizable showdown” during their Dhaka rally which took place in Dhaka on September 27, 2011. Police intelligence agency and another intelligence agency also echoed the same forecast. Both said the rally won’t be able to attract more than 20-25 thousand people. But DGFI [Directorate General of Forces Intelligence] signalled the “possibility” of participation of at least 50-75 thousand people during the rally. And interestingly, the rally of BNP-led four party alliances turned into the biggest-ever public gathering in the recent past history of Bangladesh, where at least half-a-million people gathered covering one-sixth of the capital city. Members of law enforcing agencies from September 26 evening continued to obstruct Dhaka-bound public transports carrying opposition activists and supporters at the entrance points. Additionally cadres of ruling party’s student and youth front were also seen active in various entrance points of the city, obstructing people from joining the opposition rally. It is assumed that if such obstacles were not enforced, the number of people participating in the rally would cross one million.
In Bangladesh, though it is a common culture that political parties hire people from city-suburbs to fill up such public meetings or showdowns, this was for the first time that, almost sixty percent of the people who gathered at the rally were neither hired nor they belong to any political quarters. But, those large segments of people were from various walks of life, starting from sufferers at stock-market [3.5 million small investors were visibly swindled in share market scam, where most of the looters belong to the ruling party or its Grand Alliance] to farmers to students to workers and political victims or their family members.
Former Prime Minister and now leader of the opposition, Begum Khaleda Zia was for the first time seen extremely reluctant, though she saw hundreds and thousands of people attending the rally. In most cases, Bangladeshi politicians turn mad seeing such huge public participation. But, Khaleda Zia did not become over-reactive nor she expressed any type of indecency in her one-plus hour long speech. It was evidently proved that the leader of the opposition had precisely done homework before the meeting and that is why, she was able to pin-point the existing sufferings of the people, blunders and failures of the ruling party as well as exhibit her praiseworthy statesperson-ship as the most sensible political leader in today’s Bangladesh, where most of the politicians are rather busy in attacking the political opponents in their best nastiest manner.
Criticizing the recent increase of prices of petroleum products, the BNP chairperson gave statistics as well as current rates of petroleum products in the world market and said, “the ruling party has increases the prices of petroleum products thus contributing in increase in sufferings of the people, when the prices of such products in the world market has significantly decreased in recent times.”
She complained that the ruling party has “completely politicized the judiciary and lae enforcing agencies are being used as political cadres to suffocate and repress the opposition forces.” Begum Zia claimed that the entire state machinery in Bangladesh has been “completely politicized during the current government.”
It was also claimed that the economy of Bangladesh has totally collapsed as the government is borrowing TK. 10 million every day from the financial institutions and the foreign minister is busy “knocking the doors of World Bank and IMF”.
Khaleda Zia noted that whenever Bangladesh Awami League came to power, there had been scam in the stock market. She alleged that certain influential quarters had befooled the people and the government had hands in “looting the life-long savings of 3.3 million small investors.”
It was also mentioned that, when Awami League came in power in 1996, small investors in the share market were robbed in the same way by a group of people backed by the ruling party.
The leader of the opposition narrated how the ruling party’s student front [Chhatra League] and youth front [Jubo League] members have created “reign of terror” in the entire country.
Criticizing the government recent decision of scrapping the caretaker system Khaleda claimed that Bangladesh Awami League has made its conspiracy set to continue in power at least for next two terms [each term is for five years and the current government will complete its tenure in December 2013]. She said, “No election will be held in Bangladesh under any political government.”
Khaleda Zia said, during the 3-year rule of Bangladesh Awami League, 13 thousand people disappeared while dead bodies are regularly found at various places. She claimed that, all of these disappearances and murders were part of political repression of the ruling party.
The four-party alliances led by BNP has announced it next political programs, which include road march towards Sylhet [eastern divisional headquarters] from Dhaka on October 10 followed by a public meeting on October 11; march towards Rajshahi [southern divisional headquarters] on October 18 while holding a rally on the same day in Bogra district and another public meeting in Rajshahi on October 19 and road march towards Chittagong [seaport city and divisional headquarters] on October 25 and public meeting in Feni district on the same day while a rally in Chittagong on October 26.
It is indicated by BNP sources that a grand rally of the four-party alliance will be organized in Dhaka on November 7, 2011, where the opposition is expecting attending of “at least two million people” from different parts of the country. Prior to this ‘Dhaka Grand Rally’, the four party-alliances will continue its “warm-up” programs in Dhaka as well as other parts of the country. The alliances is also considering releasing a short-film titled “Luterar Koboley Bangladesh” [Bangladesh in grips of looters], which would be shown on the private television channels in the country with a call to people to join the ‘Dhaka Grand Rally’ of the opposition.
Political analysts in Dhaka are sensing the BNP led alliances is actually trying ultimately to turn the anger of the people towards an anti-government ‘movement’ similarly as “Arab Spring” or “Jasmine Revolution”, though majority of the analysts believe, such movement would ultimately turn into a “potential threat to democracy in Bangladesh”. They said, “Arab Spring or Jasmine Revolution is only letting military regimes in replacing the elected governments, which won’t be a good thing for Bangladesh.” The analysts also fear “rise of Jihadists and radical Islamist groups”, who might take the advantage of any political anarchy in the country. But they agreed that the Dhaka-rally of the opposition with the participation of “hundreds and thousands of people was a clear signal to the ruling party”.
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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is globally renowned Journalist, Columnist, author & Peace Activist. He is the Editor of “Weekly Blitz” and “Daily Frontline”. He is the recipient of PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005, AJC Moral Courage Award 2006, Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007. He can be reached at [email protected]