Jatiya Party (JaPa) Chairman HM Ershad, also special envoy to the prime minister, heavily criticized the ruling Awami League government on Saturday, saying Bangladesh had become a “suffocating state” under its tenure.
“They call me an autocrat. But it is a shame that the incumbent government has been recognized internationally as an autocracy,” Ershad said in reference to a report by a Germany based organization, which identified Bangladesh as one of five countries that no longer met standards of democracy.
The JaPa chairman made the comments while addressing a rally at Laldighi Maidan, Chittagong.
“One person rule has been established in the government. One person cannot rule over the entire country. We will introduce a provincial system and the country will be divided into seven provinces if Jatiya Party is voted to power,” Ershad added.
“We are now living in a suffocating state. Nobody knows when he or she will be killed or become a victim of enforced disappearance. We want to breathe, we want to live, and people want a change,” the JaPa chairman said.
“There is no election in the country. Election now means ballot-stuffing, and therefore the electoral system should be reformed.”
Education, the condition of roads and highways, prices of food items and the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh were all criticized by the JaPa chief.
Taking a swipe at Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, Ershad said: “The education sector has become rotten to the core. It is a shame that the education minister advises the taking of bribes within tolerable limits. Now it is difficult to fail a public exam. We cannot go ahead with this dismal education scenario.”
Meanwhile, he said the condition of highways in Bangladesh was so bad that it took 15 hours to reach Rangpur from Dhaka by road.
Ershad also said the government had failed in its election pledge to reduce the price of rice to Tk10 per kg, as the food item was now selling at between Tk60-70 per kg.
“The Awami League also pledged to create employment for every household, but there are over 48 million people in the country who have no jobs,” Ershad added.
“An unemployed youth is a burden to the family and society. Failing to find employment, a jobless youth eventually resorts to substance abuse. There were no narcotics during my regime. But now, yaba pills can be found even at tea stalls. I had established good governance during my rule,” he claimed.
Ershad also said child marriage was still prevalent in Bangladesh, claiming parents now marry off their daughters as early as at the age of 14 in the attempt to protect them from being raped.
The JaPa chairman also demanded that action be taken against those responsible for mismanagement in the banking sector, and that the identities of those involved in the Bangladesh Bank heist be revealed.
With Combined National Alliance leader MA Mannan in chair, the rally was also addressed by JaPa Secretary General ABM Ruhul Amin Howladar, presidium members Anisul Islam Mahmud, Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu, Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury and Solaiman Alam Seth, among others.