Gonoforum President Dr Kamal Hossain on Sunday called upon the country’s people to be vocal in demanding the annulment of the Digital Security Act.
He made the call in a statement voicing deep concern over the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in jail.
"Along with the country’s people, I am shocked at the death of Mushtaq Ahmed in government custody. I’m also deeply concerned about the safety of our citizens," Dr Kamal said.
Also read: Digital Security Act worst of all laws: BNP
The noted jurist said many questions have arisen as Mushtaq, arrested under the Digital Security Act, was not granted bail and finally died in jail though he was a healthy man.
He demanded the immediate repeal of this ‘black law’, Digital Security Act. “I urge the country’s people to be vocal and united with a demand for the restoration of democracy and people’s right to vote and the repeal of this black law.”
The veteran Supreme Court lawyer urged the government to present the facts before people through a proper investigation into Mushtaq's death.
Mushtaq Ahmed, who was arrested last May in a case filed under the Digital Security Act, died in police custody at around the 8:30pm on Thursday.
The 53-year-old writer suffered a heart attack inside his cell at Kashimpur High Security Prison on Thursday evening.
He was taken to Shaheed Tajuddin Medical College Hospital but declared dead on arrival, said Senior Jail Superintendent Md Gias Uddin.
BNP has decided not to participate in the upcoming Union Parishad elections as it has got frustrated over the election process.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir came up with the announcement at a press conference at party chairperson’s Gulshan office.
"We thought that at least the government would take steps for credible elections in the local government bodies and the Election Commission would conduct the polls in a fair manner," he said.
Also read: Bangladesh now a ‘police state’, alleges BNP
"But what has so far happened in recent elections to Union Parishad, Municipality and Upazila Parishad is very much frustrating. So, we’ve decided not to take part in the forthcoming Union Parishad elections in a partisan manner,” Fakhrul said.
He said BNP had earlier joined the elections amid extreme adversities as the party believes in democracy. “But the recent elections have manifested that the current Election Commission is not capable of conducting any polls in a free, fair, and credible manner.”
Also read: Digital Security Act worst of all laws: BNP
The BNP leader said the Election Commission’s main responsibility is now to implement the agenda of the current ‘unelected’ government.
Asked whether BNP will refrain from participating in all the elections in the days to come, he said their standing committee will decide it later.
"So far, our party has decided not to join the Union Parishad polls… we’re not going to nominate any candidate from our party in the Union Parishad polls,” Fakhrul said.
He said BNP standing committee took the decision at its virtual meeting on Saturday.
Accusing the government of snatching freedom of expression, BNP senior leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain on Sunday said it will not be able to stay in power for a long time depending on the police.
“You’ve seen how police attacked general students at Shahbagh. Police also attacked a peaceful demonstration of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal and beat them today (Sunday) in front of the Jatiya Press Club,” he said.
Speaking at a discussion, he said, “The autocratic rulers can hang on to power for some time by force resorting to police action, but not for a long time as we saw Ayub Khan and Ershad.”
Zia Parishad arranged the programme at the Jatiya Party Club protesting the move to revoke BNP founder Ziaur Rahmam’s gallantry title ‘Bir Uttam.
Mosharrof, a BNP standing committee member, said police also obstructed a rally of their party’s defeated mayoral candidates in Khulna on Saturday.
“Why do they (govt) call it a democratic country when we cannot stage our protests and when our freedom of assembly and expression is denied?” he said.
Also read: Digital Security Act worst of all laws: BNP
The BNP leader said police brutally charged batons and fired rubber bullets on Chattra Dal activists foiling their democratic programme. “We strongly condemn and protest the incident.”
He said the current government is trying to suppress its opponents with repressive acts, but it won’t succeed finally. “We’ll put up a resistance against the fascist regime by forging a strong mass unity. We’ll surely restore democracy and people’s ownership of the country.”
BNP leaders at a rally here on Saturday alleged that the government has turned Bangladesh into a ‘police state’ by ‘annihilating people’s voting rights only to continue its ‘fascist rule’.
They also said there is no alternative to forging a strong unity of people to restore people’s rights and ensure fair election by ‘ousting’ the current government through a movement.
“The current government is fascist and undemocratic one. It has turned the country into a police state by snatching democracy and all the rights of people,” said BNP vice-chairman Barrister Shahjahan Omar.
Khulna city unit BNP arranged the rally at Shaheed Moharaj Chattar in city demanding fair and credible elections under a neutral government and an Election Commission.
Shahjahan Omar said the government has continued its repressive acts against BNP leaders and activists to cling to power by suppressing them. “Awami League fears BNP as it has been in power illegally without people’s votes.”
He said the government has tried to foil their rally by creating various obstructions. “Our leaders and activists have been obstructed from joining the rally while vehicle movement has been stopped in a planned way.”
Referring to the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in jail, the BNP leader said the government is trying to eliminate its opponents and dissent resorting to repression. “People have now no scope to express their opinions freely.”
He called upon the people of all walks of life to get united and raise their voice for the restoration of democracy and their all rights, including the voting one.
Shahjahan Omar criticised the government for what he said its efforts to remove Ziaur Raman’s gallantry title Bir Uttam out of political vengeance.
He said their party will continue its movement for the restoration of democracy and voting rights. “We’ll come up with fresh action programmes after holding our scheduled rallies in six cities.”
Speaking at the programme, BNP vice-chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu said people have got fed up with the current government as the ruling party leaders are indulging in widespread corruption, plundering and various misdeeds. ”Bangladesh has now become a mafia sate. People want to get rid of the autocratic rule of the current regime.”
He said there is no alternative to a strong movement to establish a pro-people government through a fair and credible election.
BNP organising secretary and Khulna city unit BNP president Nazrul Islam Manju said it is not possible to hold a fair election under the current government and the Election Commission.
He said a national election must be held under a non-party government and neutral election. “If necessary the next election can be held under the United Nations to ensure the voting rights of people.”
BNP joint secretary general Syed Moazzem Hossain Alala and defeated mayoral candidates in different city corporation poll, among others, spoke at the rally.
It was the third rally of the party as it had similar programme in Chattogram and Barishal on February 13 and 18 respectively.
A large number of law enforcers were deployed in the city and around the rally venue to fend off any untoward incident.
BNP leaders alleged that bus service on 18 roads in the city and its adjoining areas was stopped by the owners from Friday evening to disrupt their rally.
On February 5, BNP's defeated mayoral candidates in different city polls announced to hold public rallies in six cities, demanding fair and credible polls.
As per the schedule, the fourth rally of the party will be held in Rajshahi on March 1, the fifth one in Dhaka north city on March 3 and the last one in Dhaka south city on March 4.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Saturday said their party considers Bangabandhu’s March-7 speech, 1971 a part of history of the Liberation War as they do not want to undermine him.
"We won’t just observe March 7, but also March 2, March 3…these incidents are part of the history of the Liberation War. How can we deny history?” he said.
The BNP leader said, “The speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is surely a part of history (of the Liberation War) and we must give him the honour and dignity he deserves.”
He made the remarks while exchanging views with journalists at a city hotel arranged by the party’s media committee on the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of independence.
Fakhrul said the facts and truth about the Liberation War must be revealed by all. “We’ve no intention to belittle anyone, and we think no one should do it. It’s also part of history that people were encouraged to join the Liberation War through Ziaur Rahman’s proclamation of independence. None of these historical events can be denied. ”
He accused Awami League of dividing the nation by branding people as pro-liberation and anti-liberation forces. “Even after 50 years of the country’s independence, it’s unfortunate that we’re divided as a nation.”
The BNP leader said Awami League often talks about the Liberation War spirit and claims itself as a pro-liberation force. “Did the country become independent with the spirit that we would snatch democracy and state power by holding elections the night before the voting…Should an innocent writer die in jail for expressing his opinions?”
He strongly criticised the government for what he said using the Digital Security Act for snatching freedom of expression of journalists and dissents. “About 400 journalists have become victims to this act while many of them have been landed in jail…writing (against the government) is just their crime. We didn’t liberate the country and join the war for such a situation.”
The BNP leader said the main objective of the Liberation War was to build a democratic Bangladesh.
About a move to revoke BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s ‘Bir Uttam’ title, Fakhrul said it doesn't matter whether this title is removed or not as history has given Zia the due place.
He, however, said this title was not conferred on Zia at the mercy of any government and or individual. “He achieved this by inspiring the nation to fight for its independence. This title was given by the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman government after independence.”
The BNP leader said people will never accept any evil attempt to take away Ziaur Rahman’s gallantry title.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said their party will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the independence throughout the year amid various programmes to present the real history of the Liberation War before the new generation.
He alleged that Awami League has been trying to distort the history of the Liberation War in many ways for the last 12 years only to undermine Ziaur Rahman. “The government’s latest move to revoke his gallantry title is very unfortunate. We do believe that revoking the title of Ziaur Rahman means insulting the Liberation War and disrespecting the freedom fighters. ”
At the programme, a one-minute silence was observed showing respect to the memory of writer Mushtaq Ahmed who died in jail on Thursday.