Release Khaleda or face movement: BNP to govt

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Dhaka, April 07: BNP on Sunday warned the government of facing a strong movement if it does not ensure the ‘unconditional’ release of its chairperson Khaleda Zia through a legal process.“We’ve long been demanding her (Khaleda’s) unconditional release. We never talked about her release on parole,” said party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

Speaking at the party’s token-hunger strike programme, he further said, “Our leader (Khaleda) has the right to get bail in the false cases she was convicted and implicated…we’ll soon wage a movement to free her.”

BNP arranged the six-hour token-hunger strike at the auditorium of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh demanding Khaleda Zia’s release from jail and her proper treatment.

The programme began at 10:30am and continued until 4:30pm. The BNP leaders broke the strike sipping water and juice offered by Dhaka University ex-Vice-chancellor Prof Emajuddin Ahmed.

Senior leaders of components of Jatiya Oikyafront and 20-Party, BNP’s two alliances, also expressed their solidarity with the programme with their participation.

Addressing the programme, Fakhrul said it will not be possible to ‘restore democracy in the country’ without freeing Khaleda from jail. “So, let’s get united to ensure her release through a movement.”

He criticised the government for taking Khaleda to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) despite their repeated requests to allow her to receive treatment at a specialised hospital.

The BNP leader urged the government to shift Khaleda to a specialised private hospital as per her desire.

BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said the government kept their chairperson in jail by force as it fears her popularity.

He also accused the government of ‘restoring’ one-party rule by obliterating democracy. “We must take a strong vow to restore democracy and free our leader (Khaleda).”

The BNP leader also said the government will not be able to keep their chairperson in jail for a longtime as their party rank and file is getting ready to take to the streets.

Another BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said it is regrettable that Khaleda has been in jail for over 13 months, though she was supposed to be released much ago.

He said there is no option for their party to waging a movement to have their chairperson released from jail.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president ASM Abdur Robb said BNP leaders and activists must intensified their movement across the country involving people to mount pressure on the government to free Khaleda.

He said the country’s 18 crore people now want Khaleda to be released from jail.

Gano Forum general secretary Mostafa Mohsin said their president Dr Kamal Hossain could not join the programme as he is scheduled to go abroad at night. “But he’s sent a message expressing his solidarity with your (BNP leaders and activists’) demand.”

Montu said Dr Kamal will work together with BNP leaders and activists in the movement for ensuring Khaleda’s release.

Krishak Sramik Janata League president Abdul Quader Siddiqui, Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, BNP senior leaders Mirza Abbas, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan and Nazrul Islam Khan, among others, addressed the programme.

Several hundred leaders and activists of the party and its associate bodies took part in the programmes.

Khaleda was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) on April 1 with severe pain in the joints of her hands and legs, insomnia and high sugar level.

The BNP chief has been in jail since February 8 last year when she was convicted of corruption. She was later found guilty in another corruption case.

Her release remains the BNP’s main demand and the party has been accusing the government of neglecting her treatment.