The opposition political parties in Bangladesh have been active for some time over the upcoming 11th national parliamentary elections.
In September, Jukta Front and Jatiya Oikkya Prokriya have placed their demands to the government with the political objectives articulated on 30 September at the Suhrawardy Uddyan.
On Sunday, BNP leaders talked about forming an anti-government unity with senior party leaders, saying that before going to prison, BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, asked for a united force to counter the government.
For the last few months, BNP and other political parties, Bikalpa Dhara, Gonoforum, Nagorik Oikkya, JSD and leftist parties have been talking to put their forces together with BNP members eagerly joining the rally called by Dr. Kamal Hossain.
Apart from the release of Khaleda Zia, the demands and aims of BNP and Jukta Front, Jatiya Oikkya have striking similarities.
The BNP seven-point demands include 1. Unconditional release of Khaleda Zia before declaration of electoral schedule plus retraction of all cases against her, 2. Dissolution of national parliament, 3. Resignation of the government and formation of neutral polls-time govt. following discussion with all parties, 4. Deployment of army at all voting centres with magistracy power, 5. Ascertain the non-usage of EVMs at the election, 6. Reformation of the Election Commission with suitable people; allowing foreign observers to monitor elections without restrictions, 7. Release of all incarcerated opposition politicians, cancellation of punishment and withdrawal of false cases; suspending all political cases from the day election schedule is declared till the publication of final poll result; assurance that no one will be arrested in a previous case, withdrawal of cases against students who participated in quota reform movement.
The demands of Juktafront and Jatiya Oikkya are 1. Level playing field for all parties during election, dissolution of current parliament before the declaration of election schedule and formation of a neutral polls-time government by people who cannot be candidates in the election, 2. Ensuring freedom of media, TV, social media platforms to ensure proper and fair election; reformation of the election commission with acceptable persons after discussion, 3. Withdrawal of all false cases against students who took part in the quota reform and safe road movements, 4. Deployment of army with magistracy power from one month prior to election till the tenth day after the polls, 5. Discarding the plan to use EVMs during election, carrying out amendments to the Representation of the People’s Order, RPO, to make it beneficial for the masses.
Meanwhile, BNPs 12 point objectives include 1. Establishment of good governance at all levels and form a benevolent state, 2. Rule of law through democratic system, 3. Create a balance in state power, 4. Appointment of judges through transparent process and ensure independence of judiciary, 5. Make the military modern and stronger, 6. Ensure freedom of the media, 7. Freeing Anti Corruption Commission from political influence, 8. Ensure basic rights for all citizens, 9. Base foreign policy on the key point of pursuing friendship with all and enmity towards none; develop mutually beneficial relation with other states for trade, commerce and investment. 10. Not permitting radicalism or allowing extremists to use Bangladesh soil for militancy, 11. Ensure quality of life for low-income people; ensure unemployment benefit, health for all, supply of power and gas. Improve communication, introduce practical education, ensure participation of women in all sectors and preserve the rights of people from all faiths, giving preference to information and technology sector, appoint neutral, apolitical persons to important posts and 12. Ensuring voting rights of expatriate Bangladeshis and providing state of the art education to make the youth into a productive force.
“BNP will voice their demands and promises after taking into account the demands of other political parties,” BNP standing committee member, barrister Jamiruddin Sirkar, told Bangla Tribune
Jukta Front leaders say “BNP’s demands reflect the desires of the masses and will play a role in forging a unity in the future.” Convener of Nagorik Oikkya, Mahmudur Rahman Manna, added “We are looking at the entire process with optimism.”
Meanwhile, several leaders of Jukta Front and Jatiya Oikkya Prokriya feel that by not calling others to the BNP rally may indicate that they want to move ahead on their own.
Declaring programmes for 3 and 4 October without discussion is questionable, they feel.
However, another senior leader of Jukta Front feels that these lapses in communication are peripheral and will be sidelined once the real discussion starts.