Respect opposition, Zia tells rival Hasina (Lead)December 8th, 2009 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, Dec 8 (IANS) Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia, who has boycotted parliament for 10 months, Tuesday offered to make the institution “effective” provided her rival and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed “respect” for the opposition’s role.
Signalling a change in stance, Zia warned the Hasina-led government against taking “any decisions that concern the people” without consulting parliament. If not, she would protest and even launch a mass movement.
Her call to Hasina came as she opened her faction-ridden BNP fifth national council meeting after a hiatus of 16 years.
“We will extend constructive cooperation to the government so that they can fulfil their work,” Star Online quoted Zia as telling over 2,000 delegates.
But she also asked the government to pay due respect to the opposition party and said: “Let the opposition talk for people and stay away from bringing false allegation against them.”
“We will help in making the parliament effective,” she said, but warned: “If the government does anything that goes against the people, the party will protest. If necessary, we will launch movements.”
Opposition boycott of parliament is a common feature of Bangladesh politics. Zia has mostly stayed away from parliament — where the BNP and its Islamist allies account for about 10 percent of the total strength — after she lost the poll in December last year.
The government, on its part, has utilised the year taking decisions and enacting laws that the opposition finds contentious.
Among the decisions are joining the UNESCO-sponsored Asian rail and highway network and projects that reflect friendly relations with India.
Hasina was due to visit New Delhi this month. But this has been postponed to early January.
A two-term prime minister (1991-96 and 2001-06), Zia, 63, has had problems keeping her flock together after the poll defeat. However, she was elected unopposed as the party’s chief, a position that she has been holding since 1981.
There was speculation about the early return of her elder son, Tarique Rahman, who lent powerful support to her government.
However, Tarique, said to be convalescing in London, put paid to such prospects in a pre-recorded message played at the conference that he would return only when he was medically fit.
“It (his participation) will depend on overall situation and my health. My treatment is still ongoing. I don’t know how many days it will take to get full recovery. I hope to join with you on my return home after recovery,” he was quoted as saying.
As per Bangladesh’s political tradition, the BNP invited Sheikh Hasina to the convention. A four-member ruling Awami League delegation led by Ashim Kumar Ukil joined the programme.
Zia and Hasina represent two opposing political legacies in Bangladesh. Hasina, who took power this January, is the daughter of the country’s slain founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Zia is the widow of slain president Ziaur Rahman. He had founded the BNP Sep 1, 1978.
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