Awami League will stay on the streets and ‘guard’ the govt

Logo of Awami League

Ruling Awami League will ‘guard’ the government over the next 35 days. The ruling party took up this plan in apprehension that BNP may bring Dhaka to a standstill in October through its demand for the removal of the government. Awami League men want to hold rallies and gatherings almost every single day of October so as to remain on the streets and ‘guard’ the government.

Sources among Awami League policymakers say that in the first week of November the Election Commission (EC) may declare the schedule for the 12th national parliament election. Those in power consider the span of time before that will be extremely sensitive. After the US declared the initiation of its visa policy, Awami League and the government are somewhat under pressure. And BNP wants to take this opportunity to administer its ‘fatal strike’. Also, the health of BNP chairpersons Khaleda Zia is fast deteriorating. There is the fear that if anything happens to her, BNP leaders and activists will take to the streets. In consideration of all these factors, Awami League wants to keep control of the streets and tackle the situation.

From 1 November the countdown to the election will begin. According to the constitution, the 12th Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) election must be held within 90 days before the end of the parliament term, that is, between 1 November and 29 January. The government at the helm in this span of time is known as the election-time government.

However, there is no specific mention in the law of when the election schedule is to be announced. Awami League has received indications from the election commission that the schedule is likely to be announced in the first week of November.

Awami League sources say that the party will have programmes throughout October to counter each and every programme of BNP. That decision is final. Also, Awami League will hold programmes more or less identical to that of BNP. Even if BNP doesn’t have a programme, Awami League will use its associated organisations to hold some programme or the other in those gaps.

Awami League’s organising secretary in charge of Dhaka division, Mirza Azam, told Prothom Alo, “BNP has said it will topple the government. We will guard the government. We will remain on the streets every day till the election schedule is announced. We will defeat BNP on the streets and win the next election.”

AL wants to get BNP caught in the US visa trap

BNP wants to use the issue of the US visa initiation to invigorate its activists. And Awami League also wants to use the US visa policy to trap BNP.

Awami League sources say an election vibe will spread all over once the election schedule is announced. The political parties will get busy with the election activities. The law enforcement agencies will be on full alert to uphold the election environment. It is also the election commission’s constitutional responsibility to protect the election environment. If BNP and its allies take up a violent movement, or programmes like bringing Dhaka to a standstill or siege programmes, that will be tantamount to resisting the election. BNP leaders will them be subject to the US visa restrictions. The law enforcement will also get the chance to come down hard on them.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, a central leaders of Awami League said that just as BNP is using the visa policy as a threat to Awami League, Awami League also wants to use it against BNP. That is why the announcement of the election schedule may come a bit earlier than expected. During the period running up to the election, Awami League will bring allegations of violence against BNP and put pressure on the US to apply its visa policy against them. Awami League leaders say that during the election period, it will mainly be the law enforcement agencies who will tackle BNP’s movement. Even so, if necessary, Awami League will take to the streets.

Thwarting movement more important than election preparation

Awami League leaders are now more or less sure that BNP will boycott the forthcoming election and try to thwart it. And before that, BNP will try to boost up its movement to topple the government. Under the circumstances, the movement on the streets will be more important than the election fray for votes. The party leaders feel that BNP will step up its movement in October to bring the capital city Dhaka to a halt. But they will not be successful because Awami League and its associate fronts are prepared. The ruling party is also considering that BNP may suddenly take to the streets unannounced. Accordingly, the party men have been told to be prepared to take to the street at short notice.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Awami League presidium member Shahjahan Khan said, Awami League will tackle BNP and prepare for the election simultaneously. He said, BNP is conspiring to disrupt the election. Awami League will tackle this conspiracy on the streets.

If BNP has a rally empty-handed, AL will be empty-handed too. If BNP takes up programmes like a siege or blockade, that will inevitably be aggressive. In that case, Awami League men will be prepared with sticks and poles to take action

Non-stop programmes

Awami League sources say that the programmes for October haven’t been finalised as yet, but these will mostly be rallies and gatherings. Whatever they do, their eyes will be on Awami League. Awami League will have programmes to counter whatever programme the take up.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, two leaders of Awami League north and south city units said, if BNP has a rally empty-handed, AL will be empty-handed too. If BNP takes up programmes like a siege or blockade, that will inevitably be aggressive. In that case, Awami League men will be prepared with sticks and poles to take action.

In the meantime, BNP is carrying out 12 days of rallies and meetings up until 4 October. Awami League too is not the streets with 7 says of various programmes up until 4 October. Some of the programmes of the two parties are on the day days and venues in close proximity.

Awami League and BNP have programmes outside those that have been announced. BNP on Sunday had held a rally in Naya Paltan demanding the release of its chairperson Khaleda Zia. Ruling AL on Tuesday held a ‘peace and development’ rally in Jinjira, Keraniganj.

Awami League policymakers feel that at a certain point it may be necessary to rally up freedom fighters, transport workers, cultural activists and professionals. They are preparing accordingly.

A central committee organising secretary of Awami League, unwilling to reveal his name, said that there will be no rest for Awami League leaders and activists in October. He said, there is already a plan to hold rallies in every constituency of the capital. Outside of that, there will be processions and other programmes if necessary.

Outside of the scheduled programmes, Awami League plans to hold large rallies for the inauguration of two mega projects in Dhaka. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on October. A civil reception will be held on that day at Diyabari in Uttara. The members of parliament of Uttara and Mirpur have been told to gather 100 thousand to 200 thousand people each to attend the event.

On 20 October the prime minister will inaugurate the Agargaon to Motijheel stretch of the metro rail. A civic reception will be held on that day too, though the venue hasn’t been finalised as yet. Massive gatherings will be ensured for that event too. Earlier, on 2 September, a civic reception had been arranged at the old trade fair grounds in Agargaon to inaugurate the elevated expressway. The huge crowds at the event had almost brought Dhaka to a complete standstill.

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