Four parties, including BNP, come together, demanding an impartial government for the national polls
Amid many speculations, a new political alliance called Jatiya Oikya Front, led by eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain, was formed on Saturday with major opposition BNP as one of its members.
As its members, Dr Kamal’s Gono Forum, BNP, ASM Abdur Rab-led Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Mahmudur Rahman Manna-led Nagorik Oikya have announced to work towards shared political goals aimed at ensuring free and fair voting in the 11th general election.
The alliance, however, does not include Bikalpadhara Bangladesh or its President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury-led Juktofront, which had initially brought together the aforementioned four parties, showing growing signs of rifts among the political groups.
Dr Kamal announced the new coalition at a press conference held at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday evening.
He said: "We are forging the unity in the interest of the 160 million people of the country, not to protect the interest of any party."
"The call for national unity has been made on behalf of millions of citizens. The new alliance has two partners of Juktofront as well. I expect the others to join the unity process.”
He emphasized taking the unity process to district and upazila levels to achieve success. "This unity will form a peaceful government through the elections by suppressing the autocrats.”
Dr Kamal said the alliance would continue its movement till its demands and visions were met and agreed upon by the government.
He hoped that Bikalpadhara would also join the new alliance.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, JSD President ASM Abdur Rab, Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder Zafrullah Chowdhury, and Gono Forum Executive President Subrata Chowdhury, among others, were beside Kamal at the time.
BNP Standing Committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed, former caretaker adviser Barrister Mainul Hosein, former vice-president of Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu), Sultan Mohammad Mansur Ahmed, were also present.
Manna, who was the member secretary of Juktofront, also briefed the media on the new coalition’s seven demands, which include the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, and 11 common goals.
The seven demands of Jatiya Oikya Front include formation of a non-partisan government through discussion with all political parties, after the resignation of the incumbent government and dissolution of parliament to hold a fair election; release of all political prisoners, and withdrawal of false cases filed against opposition leaders and activists.
Their demands also include Election Commission reform with qualified personnel, no use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next election, withdrawal of false cases filed against students and journalists, and deployment of army personnel with magistracy powers 10 days before the national polls
1. To ensure a fair election, a non-partisan government must be formed through discussion with all political parties, after the resignation of the incumbent government and dissolution of the parliament. Release of political prisoners, including of Khaleda Zia must be ensured, and false cases filed against opposition activists must be withdrawn
2. Election Commission must be formed with qualified personnel, and electronic voting machines (EVMs) must not be used in the next election
3. Level playing field during election time must be ensured
4. False cases field against students and journalists must be withdrawn, and laws such as Digital Security Act must be scrapped
5. Army Personnel, with magistracy powers must be deployed ten days before the next general election
6. Foreign and domestic observers must be present during election time, and media professionals must be allowed to perform their duties without any restrictions
7. Trial of all ongoing cases filed against political personalities must be postponed from the announcement of the polls schedule, till the declaration of the election results. New cases must not be filed against those political personalities during this time
1. Establishing good governance by bringing balance of power in parliament, government, president and prime minister with an aim to build a Bangladesh with the spirit of Liberation War to end the authoritarian regime, and decentralizing the administration
2. Amending the constitution, including Article 70, and forming a constitutional commission to appoint impartial and honest officials to the important positions in constitutional bodies
3. Ensuring freedom and power of the judiciary
4. Ensuring necessary initiative for modernizing the Anti-Corruption Commission and bringing the corrupts to book
5. Ensuring an investment-friendly environment, creating jobs and establishing merit as the only baseline for recruitment in government jobs
6. Ensuring security of the people, their property and fundamental rights and women empowerment
7. Implement infrastructural reform for freeing the public administration, police and local government from corruption and grouping
8. Establishing discipline in the financial institutions, including Bangladesh Bank, and ensuring financial growth focused on proper use of national resources, fair distribution and public welfare
9. Building a national consensus against militancy, terrorism and communalism, and establishing positive, creative and balanced political environment by ending politics of vengeance and negativity
10. Adopting a “friendship with all, enmity with none” foreign policy
11. Ensuring advance training, modern technology and equipment for the armed forces to strengthen and modernize them
’Change starts now’
At the press briefing, Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the people wanted change and the beginning of that change started with the formation of the new unity.
He also announced a three-point program of Jatiya Oikya Front – campaigns across Bangladesh to spread out the movement, views-exchange meetings with foreign diplomats and envoys, and with journalists.
BNP Secretary General Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said: "Jatiya Oikya Front has kicked off the movement for the masses to free the nation from the prevailing situation."
The party’s Standing Committee member Moudud Ahmed also said the new alliance would be a turning point to bring back the people’s right to vote.
"Dr Kamal has made a very bold move because he wants democracy. This unity now has only one aim – compel the government to accept our demands and hold a fair election," he added.
Zafrullah Chowdhury said: "Dr Kamal Hossain is not leading the unity formation process by taking anyone's side. He is doing what needs to be done to deal with the existing crisis prevailing in the country.”
Senior BNP leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain added that Jatiya Oikya Front was a light of hope ahead of the next election.
On October 7, the leaders of BNP, Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, and Juktofront, held a meeting at Mosharraf’s house in the city and reached a consensus to wage a united movement to force the government to hold a credible election.
Over the last month, BNP and the previous coalition comprised of Oikya Prokriya and Juktoront have voiced similar demands concerning the upcoming polls.
Jatiya Oikya Prokriya was initiated by Juktofront and Gono Forum on September 15. Later, on September 22, BNP extended its support to the platform at a rally.
Since then, leaders from the three political platforms have held several meetings to finalize the next course of action.
With this, almost all the parties who oppose the ruling Awami League will have joined a single platform.
On Friday night, the leaders of BNP, Juktofront, and Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, finalized a draft framework of the new coalition with the demands and goals to force the government to step down before the polls and organize fair balloting.