Awami League lobbies with foreign embassies to get emergency lifted

August 8th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Aug 8 (IANS) Foreign missions in Bangladesh have become the hub of political parleys, with former prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) lobbying with some of them to pressure the government to lift emergency curbs before the December parliamentary polls. Awami League leaders have been meeting British, American, Canadian and Chinese diplomats in the past few days.

A party leader told The Daily newspaper that although several diplomats said the national elections would not be free and fair under the emergency, they were confused about whether or not to ask the government to lift curbs.

“We will continue to talk to them in this regard and talk to the UN and Commonwealth parliament members,” he said.

This, however, is unlikely to go well with the government, already under pressure from visiting ministers and officials of donor nations to lift emergency before the parliamentary polls.

The Awami League got active on the diplomatic front after its thumping victory in the recent civic polls where it bagged the mayoral posts in four large cities and eight of nine smaller ones.

But following the results, the government and the election commission contended that like the civic polls, which were widely perceived as fair and peaceful, the country could also have the parliamentary polls under the national emergency imposed in January last year.

Cooperatives Minister Anwarul Iqbal Thursday said the parliamentary elections, stalled for about 18 months, would be held under the state of emergency.

“The polls will surely be held under a state of emergency,” he said.

The Awami League is matching the efforts of Hasina, who is in the US on parole from prison for medical treatment. She has been holding political meetings and issuing statements, many of them critical of the military-backed caretaker government here.

In doing so, the Awami League may have seized the initiative from other parties, including the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia.

They would now support the move and join to put more pressures on the government, political analysts said.

The Awami League, the country’s oldest party, may be banking on its successful track record of creating international opinion against restrictive moves by past governments in the last three decades.

Barred from returning home from Britain last year, Hasina thwarted the government’s effort by raising her right to return home among the British parliamentarians.

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