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Dhaka Tribune

May 2 hartal called off

Update : 30 Apr 2013, 12:51 PM

Leader of the opposition and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday postponed the 18-party alliance’s countrywide hartal for May 2, responding to the prime minister’s call.

The strike was called off on what the prime minister termed “humanitarian grounds” since the country is still reeling from the Rana Plaza disaster at Savar, said a press release signed by Khaleda’s press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan.

“The prime minister said rescue operations and relief and treatment efforts would be hampered by the strike. We have postponed the dawn-to-dusk hartal for May 2 in response to her call, for the sake of humaneness, and to create the opportunity for all to stand united during this time of national tragedy,” Khaleda said.

“We hope that the prime minister will respond to our calls – in the greater interest of the country – the same way we are now responding to hers,” said the opposition leader in the statement.

Khaleda expressed the hope that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would reinstate the caretaker government system in order to hold the general elections peacefully and handover power constitutionally, “leaving her desire to return to power through the path of an engineered election.”

She said the PM should initiate a consultation with representatives from all political parties on how the non-party caretaker government could be formed.

She demanded that the government free the leaders and activists of the opposition parties and facilitate the holding of political programmes like rallies and processions.

Khaleda alleged that the Savar rescuers’ repeated requests for torches, oxygen cans, water, saline and other equipment proved that the government had failed to supply even basic materials for the rescue operation. “The government even failed to preserve the dead bodies and misbehaved with the relatives of the victims,” she added.

“With such incompetency, why did the government refuse to take assistance from the UK and other international organisations?” she said.

Khaleda thanked the armed forces, fire brigade, police, Rab, Ansar and all the common people, volunteers and doctors for participating in the rescue operation at Savar.

Khaleda said that the government was confused about giving the army full responsibility of the Savar rescue operation. “If the engineer brigade of the army were deployed with full power and necessary equipment, the death toll would have been much less,” she said.

She stated that the government declared national mourning, but it did not observe the day; the parliament session was not postponed; the PM went on with her state activities, even inaugurating a train service; also, the president’s oath-taking was not postponed.

Khaleda said her party had called the hartal to demand the arrest of Sohel Rana, owner of the collapsed building, and his “godfather” who patronised Rana politically and administratively.

“This terrorist constructed a faulty building, grabbed a minority’s land, and created a death trap. Backed by the local lawmaker and the administration, he forced the garment workers into the building to foil the opposition’s hartal. The whole syndicate later helped Rana flee the scene,” she said.

She expressed doubt that Rana would be properly punished, as there were loopholes in the cases filed against him. People also do not believe that anyone loyal to the ruling party would be punished, as the former president’s clemency released a number of criminals, she said.

Khaleda expressed the hope that detained Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman and officials of the newspaper would be released.

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