Ahead of the January 7 general elections in Bangladesh, the main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), issued a call for a 48-hour nationwide ‘hartal’ (general strike) commencing on Saturday, January 6, 2024 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s “illegal government,” the Dhaka Tribune reported.
The hartal is expected to significantly disrupt daily life in Bangladesh, potentially impacting transportation, businesses, and educational institutions. The government, however, has rejected the strike call and urged citizens to go about their normal routines.
Under the leadership of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the BNP has decided to boycott the general election scheduled for Sunday. The party is advocating for the formation of an interim non-party neutral government to oversee the election, a demand that has been rebuffed by the government led by Prime Minister Hasina.
The BNP will carry out processions, mass campaigns and distribute leaflets against the polls across the country, as reported by the Dhaka Tribune.
Moreover, the second day of the hartal coincides with the election, which has already gathered global attention.
BNP Joint Senior Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi announced the programmes on Thursday afternoon in a virtual press briefing.He further said that the hartal will begin at 6 am on Saturday and end at 6 am on Monday.
Meanwhile, the BNP’s like-minded parties will observe the programmes simultaneously. The demands by the BNP include the resignation of the government, the release of its leaders and activists arrested since late October, and the unconditional release of party chief Khaleda Zia.
Soon after Rizvi’s announcement, the Liberal Democratic Party also said that it would go on a strike for 48 hours starting at 6 am on Saturday, Dhaka Tribune reported. It will be the fifth spell of hartals by the BNP and like-minded parties since October 29. The opposition parties enforced countrywide blockades for 23 days in 12 phases over the period.
The BNP came up with the call for a non-cooperation movement on December 20, which led to the continued mass campaigns and distribution of leaflets. Rizvi further said that their programme is meant to drum up public support in favour of the party’s call to boycott the January 7 election.
Reportedly, he is also wanted by the police for campaigning against the election, according to Dhaka Tribune.
Earlier on Thursday, the BNP leader urged the people to boycott the “one-sided and dummy election as it will put the country into trouble.”
Later in the day, leaders of the 12-party alliance marched in the capital’s Paltan area, where they circulated anti-poll leaflets too. Moreover, they also held a brief rally in front of the National Press Club. In another development, BNP Standing Committee Member Abdul Moyeen Khan, pointing at the Awami League, said, “A government can retain power by cheating the people.”
“But the Awami League government will have to step down today or tomorrow,” he added. He was addressing a rally of the Bangladesh Sammilito Peshajibi Parishad, a pro-BNP organisation of professionals, near the press club, reported the Dhaka Tribune.
Meanwhile, Awami League President Sheikh Hasina on Thursday made an impassioned appeal and urged the people to exercise their voting rights in Sunday’s election to prove that democracy prevails in Bangladesh.
“Today I’ve appeared before you to ask for votes in favour of the symbol, Boat,” she said in a televised address to the nation, her final campaign speech before the January 7 national election to form the country’s 12th parliament.
“The call has come; it’s time to take the road”, Sheikh Hasina said, quoting from poet Sunkanta Bhattacharya’s poem, Udayachal (From the east). In her over 24-minute speech, the prime minister said she is seeking another five-year term in office to make development sustainable, work to improve people’s living standards and build a smart, developed Bangladesh free from hunger and poverty.
Prime Minister Hasina said during her Awami League government’s three consecutive terms (2009-2023) the country has witnessed the continuation of a “democratic trend and stability” in the process of building a people’s welfare-oriented society based on “equality and justice.”
“If we can form the government again by getting your valuable votes, we will be able to continue with the implementation of the programmes taken by us,” she said, adding that this will give “us an opportunity to further improve your living condition.,” she added. (With Inputs from ANI)