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Khaleda calls march to force end of elections

Dhaka, Dec. 24 (PTI): Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia today urged the people to force the government into scrapping the January 5 general election by marching to the capital on December 29.

Warning Awami League-led government not to block the “March for Democracy”, Khaleda said the polls “could be the last nail in the coffin of democracy”.

The BNP and its allies have been staging protests since late October to force Hasina to step down so that a non-party caretaker government can be installed to oversee the election.

Violent clashes triggered by nationwide strikes and blockades enforced by the BNP alliance have left over 100 people dead and crippled the economy since November.

“I urge all able bodied countrymen cutting across their affiliation, religion and class to join the rally on December 29,” Khaleda told a news conference at her office in the Gulshan area of Dhaka.

“This (January 5 polls) is a farce, not an election, rather a shameless selection,” she said. The BNP would be forced to take “tougher actions” if the government blocks the marchers, she added.

Khaleda said there was still a scope for talks but made the cancellation of polls a pre-condition for any dialogue. “Still there is time and we are ready for talks,” she said.

The BNP-led 18-party Opposition alliance and the Jatiya Party, a key Awami ally, have boycotted the polls. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed insists the vote will go ahead as planned.

The BNP has refused to field candidates, saying polls under Hasina will be rigged — an accusation the Hasina strongly rejects.

Hasina has refused to accept the Opposition demands and ruled out any possibility of re-scheduling the polls.

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