Senior leaders of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, including its secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, said on Friday that they were ready for maximum sacrifice to restore democracy in the country and people’s voting rights.

They came up with these remarks at the grand rally organised by the party in front of the party’s Naya Paltan central office.

BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman, briefly addressed the BNP grand rally over a mobile phone.

The party secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul, addressing the grand rally as the chief guest, announced a new agitation programme to press home their one-point demand for the government’s resignation and the holding of the upcoming general election under a neutral government.

He said that the opposition political parties would hold sit-in programmes from Dhaka entry points.

Friday’s grand rally of the main opposition began at the party’s central office at Naya Paltan in Dhaka shortly after jumma prayers.

Though the rally was scheduled to begin at 2:00pm, hundreds of party leaders and activists began arriving at the rally venue in the early morning, while hundreds had stayed at the venue since Thursday night.

When Fakhrul began his speech at the rally, he told the audience that there was a surprise for the party leaders and activists before acting party chairman Tarique Rahman addressed the rally for eight minutes through a mobile phone.

During his speech, BNP leader Fakhrul said that the government had established a one-party rule in the country, destroying all state organs.

‘Every sector of the country has been destroyed today. Today, people have no rights. They have taken everything away,’ he said, adding that BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia brought back parliamentary democracy through a long movement. ‘She has been unjustly detained today. Her son, Tarique Rahman, is struggling to restore lost democracy in the country. He has also been deported on false cases,’ Fakhrul said.

Fakhrul said that they were also ready to sacrifice for restoring democracy.

People’s lives have become miserable due to commodities prices, he said, also mentioning electricity prices increase.

He also said that expatriates were sending remittances to the country with difficulty, and the government was looting their money and smuggling it abroad.

‘We need to build a prosperous Bangladesh. Thirty-six parties are protesting together for this. Apart from this, those who are here are all saying that no fair election is possible under them [Awami League]. We will form a national government with all parties involved in the movement. The judicial system that denied us justice will be reorganised,’ he said.

This government wants to hold elections again using the judiciary and administration, as it has politicised every organ of the state, he said.

‘I want to tell the police administration that you will not act on the illegal orders of the illegal government. Obey the rule of law. Do not arrest anyone wrongly,’ he added.

Addressing the rally, BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said that no BNP leaders and activists would return home until democracy was restored.

‘Our 20 leaders and activists were killed in recent movements. We are not afraid of it. We must restore people’s rights to elect their leaders.

BNP standing committee member Mirza Abbas presided over the rally.

He said that his party would no longer seek police permission for party events, as a movement for ousting the government was not possible with the government’s permission.

Defying senior leaders’ instructions, several thousand activists thronged the Naya Paltan area on Thursday night and stayed there overnight.

Visiting the rally venue at about 11:30am on Friday, thousands of party leaders and activists from different parts of the city were seen arriving in processions.

Carrying banners, festoons, placards, and portraits of the party’s top leaders, they were shouting anti-government slogans.

Roads and alleys stretching from Bijaynagar, Naya Paltan, Fakirapool, Mothijeel, Kakrial, and Purana Paltan areas were crowded with BNP activists, halting traffic in the area as nearly two kilometres of streets were filled with BNP leaders and activists.

A brief spell of rain disrupted the rally shortly after it started around 2:00pm.

Many leaders and activists of the party alleged that they had to face checks by law enforcement agencies at the entry points to the capital.

Apart from the BNP, 37 like-minded political parties and alliances also arranged separate rallies in different city areas to press home the one-point demand that included the resignation of the Awami League government and holding the next election under a neutral government.