Khaleda Zia, chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance, on Thursday said the alliance would participate in the parliamentary elections if the date of ballot was deferred to December 28 from December 18, provided the government fulfilled the three other demands of the alliance.
‘We will certainly participate in the [parliamentary] elections if it is held on December 28, but the government must implement our three other demands’, Khaleda Zia said at a crowded press conference at her Gulshan office Thursday evening, 72 hours after she announced the four-party alliance’s four-point demands.
The three demands are – a complete withdrawal of the state of emergency on the last date of withdrawal of nomination papers for parliamentary elections, revocation of the Article 91(E) of the Representation of People Order that gives the Election Commission ‘despotic’ power to cancel candidature at any level of elections, and deferment of the upazila polls by one month from the date of ballot in the parliamentary elections.
‘An election under emergency cannot be free and fair’, she said.
The BNP chairperson asked the government to create an atmosphere conducive to polls and not to make ‘unilateral decisions’.
On Monday evening, Khaleda Zia gave the government 48 hours to take immediate measures to implement the alliance’s four-point charter of demands. Five advisers to the interim government held negotiations with Khaleda Zia and her arch-rival, Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday evening.
‘The advisers said that there had been progress in the talks and that they would continue discussions. But they did not come for further discussions’, Khaleda alleged Thursday.
She said the advisers had contacted some alliance leaders on Wednesday [November 19] to know whether the alliance would join the polls if it was held on December 28. ‘They [advisers] said that the rest three of the four demands will be considered if the alliance agrees [to participate] in elections on December 28.’
‘We clearly stated that we agree to holding of the polls on December 28. But the rest three demands must be implemented for ensuring free and fair polls’, she said.
Without naming anybody, Khaleda, also the immediate-past prime minister, said, ‘[After wards], influential and powerful persons held a series of meetings at the Chief Adviser’s Office keeping the whole nation in suspense. But irresponsible attitude was shown after the meetings by announcing that the polls will be held on the set date [of December 18].’
‘It was not for a pre-planned, uncompetitive, one-sided and got-up election that the people suffered for the last two years’, she said adding, ‘This announcement has made it clear that the government has taken the side of one of the two political alliances.’
She called on all to be cautious so that the ‘traditional neutrality’ of the armed forces was not called into question.
Khaleda Zia was flanked by top alliance leaders, including BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami amir Matiur Rahman Nizami, Islami Oikya Jote faction chairman Fazlul Haque Amini and Bangladesh Jatiya Party faction chairman Andaleeve Rahman.
Before the meeting of the alliance at Khaleda’s Gulshan office, two top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid, met Khaleda at her Mainul Road home in Dhaka Cantonment. The leaders pressured her that saying Jamaat has no other option but contesting the polls, if needed alone, as per the opinion of its highest policy making bodies.
The party also called a news conference at 11:00am Friday to announce its decision.