Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced at a major election rally in Chittagong yesterday that the freedom fighters quota will be maintained. She was campaigning for votes for the ruling Awami League party to “ensure the continuation of the development of Bangladesh.”
The prime minister also asked people to pay freedom fighters their due respect.
“We provide stipends to freedom fighters and have a quota for their children and grandchildren,” she said.
“Everyone should remember that without these freedom fighters there would not be any independent Bangladesh. Without independence, would there be any job opportunities?”
The prime minister’s remarks come at a time when there are numerous protests nationwide for and against the quota in public service. There are claims that the quota is depriving meritorious candidates from finding employment due to the preference given to the 57% quota. Freedom fighters receive a 30% quota in BCS exams.
Vote for development
Hasina, who is also Awami League president, addressed a huge crowd brought to the Patiya Adarsha High School grounds to the south east of the port city by the party’s Chittagong South unit.
“If you give us your votes, we will give you development,” she said. “Only Awami League’s victory can ensure that development continues in Bangladesh.”
“Bangladesh will be a developed country; I am working to fulfil that goal,” Hasina told the vast crowd. “My only purpose is to ensure development and a prosperous life for the people of Bangladesh.
“We have sent one million people to work overseas in a year. We have set up training centres nationwide to give them the necessary skills. To support young entrepreneurs, we have encouraged interest-free bank loans.”
Sheikh Hasina highlighted the ruling party’s other achievements, citing, among others, the trials and convictions of war criminals, the production of 16,000MW of electricity, the introduction of 4G internet, and the building of the Padma Bridge without World Bank funding.
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Hasina contrasted Awami League’s activities with those of BNP, accusing the main opposition party of arson, murder, and disregarding court orders to protest violently.
“BNP leaders and activists are not human; they made Bangladesh a haven for militancy and terrorism,” she said.
On the terrorism theme, the prime minister called upon parents and teachers to become more cautious about their children in order to prevent militant ideologies “corrupting their minds.”
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Awami League’s Chittagong South unit president claimed over 300,000 people were in attendance Focus Bangla
A show of strength
The Awami League president was accompanied in Chittagong by a high-profile Awami League delegation comprising general secretary and Road, Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Housing and Public Works Minister Mosharraf Hossain, Joint General Secretary Mahbub-Ul-Alam Hanif, and Publicity and Publications Affairs Secretary Dr Hasan Mahmud.
To impress the assembled high command, nomination seekers from all units of the party had hung banners and posters throughout the port city, a senior leader of Chittagong city Awami League unit told the Dhaka Tribune.
Moslem Uddin Ahmed, president of AL’s Chittagong South unit, claimed yesterday’s rally was the biggest staged by the unit since Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited in 1973. He claimed over 300,000 people were in attendance, spread over a four kilometre radius around the rally spot.
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The prime minister inaugurated 12 projects and laid the foundation stones of 29 projects in Chittagong[/caption]
“Wednesday’s rally would be the most significant in the history of Awami League,” Mahtab Uddin Chowdhury, acting president of Awami League’s Chittagong city unit, said.
He also said that the grounds of Patiya Adarsha High School were historically important, as Jawaharal Nehru gave a speech there in 1943, and Bangabandhu addressed the ground in 1969, 1970 and 1973.
Recognizing this, Sheikh Hasina used a section of her own speech to mourn her family members who were gunned down with her father in August 1975 while she and a sister were visiting West Germany.
She also lamented being prevented from returning to Bangladesh by Ziaur Rahman, who assumed power.
“After losing my family, I had one goal in mind – to take this country, the country liberated by my father, to new heights,” she said.
“My father shed his blood for the people of this country, and I want to see Bangladesh as a country where everyone has their own homes and no crisis of food. Healthcare and education will be available to everyone.”