Calls for caretaker government
More protests threatened over alleged restrictions on activists during rally
Protesters in front of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party headquarters in Dhaka
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) yesterday delivered an ultimatum to the ruling Awami League during a mass rally in the capital to restore a non-party caretaker government or face further protests. “We demand constitutional amendments to restore a non-partisan caretaker government system by June 10. Otherwise we will start an all-out movement to thwart the government,” said Khaleda Zia, head of the BNP, during a rally of an 100,000 people in front of party headquarters. She said the opposition would not accept any provision to hold polls under a partisan government system that would allow the ruling party to rig the results. National elections are scheduled for 2014. Members of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party joined BNP in yesterday’s rally. Thousands of riot police, security personnel and border guards surrounded the rally that ended peacefully. Zia further accused the government of barring party activists from traveling to the capital to join the rally and for mass arrests and harassment. “We will observe a dawn-to-dusk [general strike] on March 29 to condemn all the restrictions to the rally from the government,” she said. Awami League joint secretary general Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif told a press conference yesterday that the opposition should make their complaints in parliament, not on the streets. “I want to make it clear that a caretaker government can’t be restored because it was cancelled following a Supreme Court order. If you have any proposal for a fair election, make it in [parliament].” He added that the ruling party would not give in to “illegal and unconstitutional demands.” The Awami League in line with a court verdict scrapped the caretaker government system last year. The system was applied in three previous elections in a constitutional process of overseeing national polls during a 90-day power transfer period from the incumbent government to the poll winner.