Khaleda for end to hartal, blockade

Offers apology for past mistakes
Shahidul Islam Chowdhury

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, left, addresses a rally of the BNP-led alliance in Paltan Maidan in Dhaka on Saturday while an army man keeps watch with binoculars. — New Age photo
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, left, addresses a rally of the BNP-led alliance in Paltan Maidan in Dhaka on Saturday while an army man keeps watch with binoculars. — New Age photo

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, on Saturday said democracy and development were synonymous with BNP and its election symbol ‘paddy sheaf’ and urged the people to vote the party to power again and step into the New Year in a free and democratic environment.
She admitted that her government had made some mistakes while in power and asked for forgiveness. She assured the voters that, if elected to office this time, her alliance would run the administration by taking lessons from past mistakes.
The BNP chief also called for an end to the politics of hartal and blockade and urged all parties to work together for the welfare of the people forgetting the past bitterness.
‘The nation steps into a new year after the elections. Cast your vote for paddy sheaf so that the people can have a nationalist government in the new year and start their life afresh with freedom in a democratic environment’, Khaleda Zia said at a mammoth rally at the Paltan ground in Dhaka. ‘The BNP and paddy sheaf are synonymous with democracy and development.’
Expressing her desire for a new start, the immediate-past prime minister said, ‘We were in power. We may have made some mistakes. I regret this. I offer an apology. We will work in future taking lessons from the past mistakes…We want to have a new start if we are voted to power once again.’
Offering her political rivals an olive branch, she said, ‘Whichever party we belong to, the country should be most important to all of us. Let us forget whatever happened in the past. We may have differences and it is nothing unusual. Let us work together for the betterment of the people and the nation’, she said adding, ‘We need to work together’, she said asking her opponents not to harbour any grudge.
Seeking support of the new and young voters, she said, ‘As a mother, I make a promise that, if you vote us to power again, we will work for making your future brighter…There is no time to look back. We will have to march forward.’
In her 55-minute address starting at 4:30pm, Khaleda pledged to curb corruption and crime and contain prices of essentials and agricultural inputs and free education for all up to degree level.
Khaleda said her party wanted to establish rule of law, multi-party democracy, an effective parliament and peaceful educational institutions.
She, however, alleged that conspiracies were on to thwart BNP’s return to power.
Recalling her ordeals in the last two years, Khaleda said she was pressured after her arrest to leave the country. ‘But I did not give in to the pressure. I told them that I would never leave my people and my country since I do not have any address outside the country. But some leaders fled the country leaving the people in distress behind.’
Giving an account of the ‘sufferings’ of the people during the regimes of Awami League in 1972-1975 and 1996-2001 and Jatiya Party in 1984-1990, Khaleda said they should not talk about democracy and freedom of press as the Awami League had imposed a one-party Baksal rule and closed all but four newspapers which they kept under government control.
In reply to Awami League’s allegations that the BNP had harboured criminals and militants, she said the people knew well under which regime terrorism had flourished. ‘They [AL] had a godfather in each district. People know the godfathers who reigned supreme in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Feni during their rule.’
Khaleda said that it was not fitting for them [Hasina and Ershad] to talk about corruption. Quoting TIB a report she said that during the Awami League’s rule, corruption amounting to Tk 17,192 crore was revealed. The amount was gradually brought down to Tk 526 crore in 2005.
She alleged the then prime minister had taken ‘commission’ for the MiG-29 deal.
Branding Ershad ‘thief of the world’, the BNP chief said he [Ershad] was convicted for corruption not by any special court but under normal law. ‘He still faces many corruption cases and will be convicted.’
She introduced her party’s candidates for the 19 constituencies in Dhaka to the audience and sought vote for them.
The meeting started at 3:15pm with recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Khaleda Zia’s address was interrupted frequently by slogans and claps from the audience.
The rally was also addressed by, among others, BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish amir Maulana Mohammad Ishaq, Islami Oikya Jote secretary general Abdul Latif Nezami, Bangladesh Jatiya Party secretary general Shamim Al Mamun and Jamaat-e-Islami’s assistant secretary general barrister Abdur Razzak.
The BNP chief began her electioneering on December 12 after visiting the shrines of Hazrat Shahjalal, Hazrat Shah Paran and Hazrat Gazi Burhanuddin in Sylhet.


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