‘I forgive, but do not forget’ Hasina to party detractors

November 8th, 2008 - 3:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 8 (IANS) Former Bangladesh prime minister and Awami League (AL) chief Sheikh Hasina has offered to forgive those who turned ‘reformers’ while she was in jail, but has said she will never forget their efforts at the behest of the military-backed caretaker government. “I will never forget their roles but I want to forgive them,” she was quoted as saying to her party colleagues at an AL central working committee meeting held here Saturday.

Many senior party colleague, some of them proteges of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had acted or spoken differently as the government sought to impose what it called “political reforms”.

Hasina, however, named only Abdul Jalil, party general secretary, who too was imprisoned on graft charges but sought forgiveness from the government and freedom on medical ground. He was in Singapore for treatment thereafter.

Hasina said Jalil, while in detention, had issued a few controversial statements “to save himself,” New Age newspaper said Saturday.

“None should die twice. But many of my leaders died before death,” she said asking the leaders to be ready to face any situation in politics with courage.

“Those who are not time-tested should not stay in politics,” Hasina was quoted to have said.

Her tightening of hold should give her unquestioned powers to distribute party nominations for the forthcoming polls and talk to partners of 14 centrist and left-of-centre parties who are in alliance with the AL, political analysts said.

She could also go in for surprise alliances to counter her chief rival, Khaleda Zia, who too is scouting for more allies.

Hasina’s alliance with Khelafat Andolan Movement, a hard-line Islamist party, in a bid to divide the Islamist vote of Zia, became controversial in end-2006, and was resented by her alliance partners.

Meanwhile, with nominations for the polls to close next week, Zia was taking a hard line against the government whom she has accused of favouring “only one party.”

Although she did not name anyone, the allusion to the Awami League is obvious, analysts said.

She has drawn up a charter of demands and demanded at a massive rally in Chittagong port town, the first by anyone in the current campaign, that the government accept them in full to allow “a level playing field.”

There is one common point, however, between the AL and Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP): both want the government to lift the national emergency before the polls.

The government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed says it must continue with the emergency for security reasons and to fight the criminals who could disrupt the poll process.

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