The BNP has begun its public meeting at the Suhrawardy Udyan with calls for party chief Khaleda Zia’s release, the dismissal of cases against Tarique Rahman and a general election under an impartial election-time government. The meeting began at 2pm on Sunday, led by BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. BNP Chairperson Khalead Zia, who is currently serving a prison sentence over the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, was designated as the chief guest at the event. A chair was left empty for her on the stage in political symbolism.
The BNP has demanded the release of Khaleda and the formation of a neutral election-time government as conditions for its participation in the upcoming eleventh national election.
The BNPs previous rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan was held on Nov 12, 2017. Khaleda had spoken at the event.
“We have named our leader the chief guest of the programme to show our respect and to show that she is always with us and in the hearts of the activists,” said BNP Publicity Secretary Shaheed Uddin Chowdhury Annie.
The BNP vice chairman, members of the Standing Committee and the Advisory Council, and other BNP leaders attended the rally.
“We hope to hold a successful public meeting with a large gathering,” BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi had toldbdnews24.com.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police gave the BNP permission to hold the rally with 22 conditions attached to it.
Preparations for the rally began afterwards.
A visit to the venue on Sunday morning showed that a 30-feet area had been cordoned off in front of the stage, while 100 speakers were set up around the venue. A volunteer patrol was made for the event from members of the Jubo Dal, Shechchhasebok Dal and the Chhatra Dal.
Banners showing images of detained party leaders were set up across the grounds. Other banners showed Khaleda Zia, Ziaur Rahman and Tarique Rahman.
Though the rally officially began at 2pm, activists from various parts of Dhaka began gathering in the area around 10am.
Between 11am and 1pm patriotic and party songs were played from the stage. Some of the songs included calls for Khaledas release.
A large crowd filled the area before 2pm.
The rally began with a reading from the Quran. Chhatra Dal Chairman Rajeeb Ahsan gave the first speech.
The police have told the BNP that they have until 5pm to end the programme.