Tens of thousands of supporters of Bangladesh’s main opposition party gathered in the capital to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and to advocate for general elections under a caretaker government.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), facing internal challenges since its leader Khaleda Zia’s imprisonment on corruption charges in 2018, has been holding larger protest rallies in recent months due to mounting dissatisfaction over the rising cost of living.
The BNP insists on Prime Minister Hasina stepping down and wants the upcoming elections, scheduled for January 2024, to be conducted under the supervision of a neutral caretaker government, a demand that Hasina’s administration has rejected.
Senior BNP leader Abdul Moyeen Khan emphasized that their main objective is to restore democracy in Bangladesh through a free and fair election, which they believe is unattainable under the current regime.
Supporters from various parts of the country joined the rally in Dhaka despite alleged obstructions by the police. The opposition claims that around 1,000 supporters have been arrested, though the police stated that some were detained for failing to provide valid identification.
The government’s response to anti-government protests has been heavily criticized by the opposition and human rights groups. In response to concerns about democratic processes being undermined, the United States announced a policy to restrict visas for Bangladeshis involved in such activities. However, Hasina’s government has denied allegations of election manipulation and political targeting during the national elections in 2014 and 2018.
As the rally took place, Hasina’s Awami League party organized a counter-protest, with a supporter affirming her continued leadership.
Amidst this intense political climate, accusations have been directed at Hasina’s government for human rights violations, curbing press freedom, suppressing dissent, and imprisoning critics, including many from the main opposition. Meanwhile, Khaleda, Hasina’s arch-rival and former premier, has been permitted to stay at home in Dhaka due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains barred from engaging in any political activities.