The BNP has decided to go all-out in implementing its one-point movement to bring down the incumbent government and hold the upcoming general election under a non-partisan caretaker government.
According to sources within the BNP, the party is set to hold protest programmes in Dhaka throughout August, with the hope of toppling the government by the end of the month.
As part of its efforts to add momentum to its ongoing movement, the BNP is scheduled to hold sit-in programmes at the entry points of Dhaka city today.
The sit-in will take place from 11am to 4pm, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir announced from the party's rally in front of its Nayapaltan office in the capital yesterday.
The same programme has also been announced by Ganatantra Mancha, BNP's partner in the simultaneous movement, as well as the 12-party alliance comprising like-minded opposition parties.
BNP leaders urged party leaders and activists who came to attend Friday's rally in Dhaka from various parts of the country not to leave the city until the government is forced to step down.
Top leaders of the party said the government will not leave power on its own and, therefore, vowed to brave all obstacles and oppressions to execute party programmes to bring down the government.
Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, a standing committee member of the BNP, said, "The government's time is running out. It's do-or-die for us, there's no time to wait."
He further conveyed a stern message to the government, emphasising that financial support from India or China may come, but it is the public – the rightful owners of votes – who ultimately decide their fate at the polls.
"Today's grand rally is a milestone of change. There is no time to speak now. We are on the street and now our only goal is to build a democratic Bangladesh," BNP Secretary General Fakhrul told Friday's rally.
Meanwhile, sources within other parties involved in the simultaneous anti-government movement told The Business Standard that an announcement may come from the BNP that they will lay siege to the secretariat on Sunday as part of their action plan. The intensity of the movement will escalate from now until 15 August.
Despite apprehensions about potential clashes, Friday's grand rally of the BNP concluded peacefully without any conflicts. Nonetheless, BNP leaders alleged that activists of the ruling party obstructed their party workers at various points along their journey.
In the past two days, police arrested thousands of leaders and activists of the BNP, raided hotels and residential areas, and restricted their movement at entry points of the capital, confiscating their mobile phones and creating confusion by spreading misinformation on various check posts, they added.
Although the rally was supposed to start after the Jummah prayers, leaders and activists of the BNP started gathering at the rally venue in the morning. As the day wore on, Nayapalton, Nightingale intersection, Kakrail, Matsyabhaban, Malibagh, Shantinagar, Fakirapool, Arambagh, Motijheel, Paltan, Bijoy Sarani, and Press Club areas became crowded with hundreds and thousands of people.
Ignoring the scorching sun and heavy raining, the activists chanted various anti-government slogans demanding resignation of the government and the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
Apart from BNP, around 40 like-minded political parties and alliances also held separate rallies in different city areas to mount pressure on the government to accept the one-point demand that includes the resignation of the Awami League government and holding the next parliamentary election, slated for January next, under a neutral government.
While speaking as the chief guest at the Nayapaltan rally, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul said that the BNP will continue to hold anti-government programmes to press home its demands for the resignation of the current "authoritarian government that has taken away the people's right to vote", the formation of a caretaker government to hold the upcoming general election, the reformation of the Election Commission, and the release of Khaleda Zia.
Addressing the police administration, Mirza Fakhrul said, "Don't take a position against the people. Stop arrests."
"Today we are not alone. Today the whole world wants to see free elections in Bangladesh. US Congressmen made a statement today. A few days ago, they imposed sanctions on RAB because of the wrongdoings of this government."
The only motto of the BNP's ongoing movement is to "get back democratic Bangladesh", Fakrul mentioned, adding, "Speaking to all political parties, we have reached a consensus that there cannot be any election under this illegal, unconstitutional government."
Mirza Abbas, a standing committee member of the BNP, said the current government's "time is over" and that the people of the country no longer stand by the government's side.
Alleging that the arrested leaders and activists are suffering in jails, Abbas said, "I would request human rights organisations to visit the jails and see the indescribable suffering of the prisoners."
Abbas also announced that the BNP will not seek permission from the government to hold any political programmes any more. "Today's huge gathering proves that there is no need to seek permission," he said.
Pointing to the US congressmen's latest letter on the state of democracy in Bangladesh, BNP leaders at Friday's Nayapaltan rally said the current government had run out of both time and avenues.
Fourteen US congressmen have asked that Bangladesh not be included in the UN Peace Missions if Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not resign, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said while addressing the rally.
He said the congressmen had demanded that the next Bangladesh elections be held under the watch of the United Nations.
"Not only in Bangladesh, but the demand for Hasina to resign is being heard all over the world as well," he said, adding there was no scope for her to remain in power.
Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, a member of the BNP Standing Committee, said, "There is no internet in our assembly today. Those who have blocked the internet are the lackeys of the vote-stealing government. They are being identified."
He said Sheikh Hasina has no other option but to pack her bags and run away.
He said to Sheikh Hasina, "Leave Ganabhaban as soon as possible, leave Ganabhaban."
Khasru said US congressmen and the European Union have also written to Sheikh Hasina saying that there will be no election under Sheikh Hasina. There is no support for Sheikh Hasina in the country or abroad.
Shamsuzzaman Dudu, a vice-chairman of the BNP, said, "This government's time is over; soon we will throw the government into Buriganga. There will be no more reprieve," he said.
Barkat Ullah Bulu, the BNP vice-chairman, said all other avenues were closed for Hasina.
"The only way to be saved is to ask for forgiveness from Khaleda Zia," he said.