Envoys urge Hasina, Zia to work ’shoulder to shoulder’

November 12th, 2008 - 12:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 12 (IANS) Bangladesh’s former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina must work “shoulder to shoulder” for the Dec 18 polls and for the betterment of the country, the envoys of three European nations have said. The appeal from the ambassadors of Netherlands, Sweden and Italy was made during a meeting with Zia Tuesday. A week earlier, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard held a meeting with Hasina in Washington and asked Dhaka politicians to “behave responsibly”.

B.M. ten Tusscher of the Netherlands, Britt Hagström of Sweden and Itala Maria Marta Occhi of Italy had called on Zia, the immediate-past prime minister who has taken a hard line on participating in the polls, to discuss electoral and current political issues.

The Dutch ambassador told reporters they hoped the political culture of the country would improve with the participation of major political parties in the forthcoming elections, New Age newspaper said Wednesday.

They emphasised the importance for a new political culture of consensus to face the challenges, including economic crisis, poverty and adverse impact of climate change Bangladesh will be facing in future. This “needs the two ladies [Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina] to stand shoulder to shoulder”, she said.

The Dutch envoy said that she had told Zia: “The future is in the hands of political parties. It is your responsibility as one of the important political parties to carry forward your country.”

Dhaka has had a proactive diplomatic corps and envoys of major countries as well as aid-givers have often spoken out their minds on political and economic issues in Bangladesh, much to the chagrin of the government of the day.

The Zia government had on more than one occasion cited the Geneva Convention for diplomatic behaviour and asked the envoys to disband what was called the “Tuesday Club”.

While Zia has accused the military-backed caretaker government of “working for only one party” - but not mentioning the Awami League - her rival Hasina has called any move to stall the polls “a conspiracy”.

During a meeting with British High Commissioner Stephen Evans earlier, the Awami League chief said national elections must be held on Dec 18 for a transition to democracy.

“National elections must be held on December 18 for transition to democracy and we want acceptable elections in a free and fair manner which will be contested by all political parties,” Hasina was quoted as saying by her special assistant Hassan Mahmud who attended the meeting.

Zia on Tuesday asked the interim government and the Election Commission to accept her party’s seven-point charter of demands, including a complete withdrawal of the state of emergency and creation of a level playing field to ensure participation of all political parties in the general elections.

She also demanded withdrawal of restrictions on rallies and processions by political parties as the government Tuesday announced that parties would not be allowed to hold rallies and processions until Nov 27 in keeping with the provision of the Emergency Power Rules.

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