The BNP and like-minded opposition parties are set to enforce a 48-hour nationwide hartal from Sunday morning, as their movement to force the government to resign almost 18 months ago moves into a new, critical phase. The hartal has been called to protest the Election Commission’s schedule for the next national election under the Awami League-led government, announced last week.
The shutdown which will begin at 6am on Sunday and end at 6am on Tuesday is meant to mount pressure on the government to step down and hand over power to a neutral government and release all the arrested BNP leaders and workers, including its secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
At a press briefing on Saturday, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, one of the few leaders of the party not incarcerated at present, called upon people from all walks of life and the opposition leaders and workers to observe the programme peacefully and make it a success.
“This hartal is meant for restoring all the lost rights of people and realising the demand for holding a free, fair, and acceptable election. This shutdown is also for registering the protest against repression of the government,” he said.
Rizvi urged the leaders and workers of BNP and other opposition parties to take to the streets with courage during the hartal hours to effectively enforce the shutdown.
He also called upon the government to step down and cancel the election schedule to ensure a credible and inclusive election.
Earlier, the same cluster of parties led by BNP enforced a 48-hour countrywide road-rail-waterway blockade from 6am Wednesday that ended at 6am on Friday to mount pressure on the Awami League government to quit power and hold the next election under a non-partisan administration. It was the fifth phase of the blockade programme of the opposition parties.
They also observed a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal on October 29 in protest against the attacks on BNP’s grand rally at Nayapaltan that ended amid the incidents of torching vehicles and clashes, leaving three people dead.
Half an hour into the start of BNP’s much-talked-about grand rally at Nayapaltan on October 28, BNP leaders and workers locked in a clash with the ruling party activists and police at Kakrail. Soon violent clashes spread around Nayapaltan, foiling the rally midway.
Separately, the Left Democratic Alliance (LDA) enforced a half-day hartal from 6 am to 2 pm and Ganatantra Mancha enforced dawn-to-dusk hartal from 6am to 6pm on Thursday protesting the polls schedule. An emerging alliance of Islamist parties also rejected the EC’s schedule, which has raised concerns about the coming election being truly participatory.