Hasina, Zia walk different paths towards polls

November 14th, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 14 (IANS) The demand that Bangladesh’s two former prime ministers meet ahead of the Dec 18 poll has got a new twist with Sheikh Hasina supporting the government’s idea of a televised debate but Khaleda Zia stating that she would like the exchange to be “exclusive” and without an agenda. Hasina’s Awami League spokesperson Syed Ashraful Islam said the discussions should be subject-specific: “We don’t want a closed-door meeting. The talks should be broadcast live so that people can watch the entire event.”

However, spokesperson of the Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Nazrul Islam Khan said: “It would be a meeting between the two ex-premiers, not any debate. So there’s no need to make it a television spectacular.”

As the poll scene hots up, Hasina reiterated Thursday that elections take place as scheduled. Zia and her Islamist allies met here Thursday, however, to discuss a proposal to be made to the Election Commission that polls be deferred by two to three months.

“The caretaker government must take initiatives to hold the election on schedule,” Hasina said in her first public meeting since her release on parole on June 11.

Zia and the Islamists want deferment since a large number of their former ministers and lawmakers are in jail for various charges, particularly graft, and many are in jail.

They stand debarred from contesting and there is a crunch on suitable candidates. There is also an apprehension within the Zia-led alliance that past lawmakers would work against new candidates to ensure their own future political prospects.

The alliance wants that the jailed or bailed former lawmakers be allowed to contest once they file appeals before their court challenging their prosecution.

There is another issue too.

“Haj pilgrims will not be able to cast their vote if the elections are held on December 18. They should not be deprived of the chance to cast their vote. Many of our candidates, on the other hand, have problems in filing nomination for the [December 18] polls. We expect that appropriate authorities should resolve the problems,” the BNP spokesperson was quoted as saying in the New Age newspaper.

The Daily Star newspaper said in an editorial: “The point we wish to drive home is that they should have met each other in a normal course of events. Why must they wait to be nudged by lawyers, business leaders and foreign diplomats to sit across the table when they should have been doing so, of their own volition whenever circumstances demanded.”

New Age added in its editorial: “What Khaleda and Hasina need to realise is that, while the people are aware of the differences and the power struggle between them, they nonetheless expect the two political camps, especially the two leaders, to forge a consensus on certain crucial issues of national interest….”

“They need to realise that the people view such animosity as a major impediment to their well-being; they know any of these two leaders can bring them both boon and bane.”

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