Awami League to launch protests next month

March 30th, 2008 - 4:30 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, March 30 (IANS) Bangladesh’s largest political party Awami League has called for a protest movement from mid-April despite a total ban on political activity by the country’s caretaker government. The party will demand the immediate release of its ailing leader Sheikh Hasina and also highlight issues like rising prices of essential commodities.

The party Saturday reiterated its demand for advancing the schedule for general elections, which the caretaker government says it will hold only in December.

The call for a protest movement was made at a meeting of the Central Working Committee and the front organisations of the party.

There is a total ban on political activity and the country is under a national emergency since January last year.

This is the first major call by a political party since the army-backed government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed called off the general elections in January last year, political analysts noted.

Unlike its rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which has virtually split into two, the Awami League has managed to remain intact, sinking its internal differences despite Hasina’s incarceration since last July.

BNP chief Khaleda Zia too has been in jail since last September.

Both women leaders have denied the corruption charges against them as politically motivated and have been battling the government in different courts. They got some reprieve when the Supreme Court stayed the trial in 17 corruption cases against the two women and other politicians.

Both have been ailing and Hasina has had health problems while appearing in court during recent weeks.

She was due to appear before a court Sunday, but her lawyers told the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency Saturday that doctors at the private Square Hospital had declared that she was not medically fit.

Hasina’s top counsel Barrister Shafique Ahmed, who met her Saturday, said 25 percent of her left eye vision had been damaged “due to negligence of the authorities”, New Age newspaper said.

“She is not fit to come out of the hospital for appearing before the special court tomorrow (Sunday) in connection with the Khulna barge-mounted power plant deal case,” Shafiqur Rahman said.

Doctors have urged the government to let Hasina go to the US for medical treatment.

Hasina’s husband Wazed Mia, a retired nuclear scientist who has himself been ailing, also met her at the hospital, accompanied by grandson Shamim and granddaughter Shamu.

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