Khaleda, Hasina tighten hold on parties ahead of polls

September 14th, 2008 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Sep 14 (IANS) Consolidating their hold over their parties ahead of the general elections, former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia has been made president for life of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) while her rival Sheikh Hasina eased out an erring general secretary of her Awami League (AL).While setting their respective houses in order, both have asked the military-backed government to free them “permanently” - withdraw the numerous corruption cases filed against them.

Hasina has made this precondition also for any meeting and rapprochement with Zia, for which the government is keen and has made efforts ahead of the parliamentary polls in December.

“A meeting between Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia can only be held when the two are treated equally under the country’s law. Let her be freed first and then she will decide what to do,” AL acting chief Zillur Rahman said.

Political observers say both are playing for time and adopting postures keeping in mind that they would be fighting each other in the polls just three months away.

Of the two, Zia had faced serious dissensions within her BNP while she was in jail and the party split into three. To tighten her hold Zia got the standing committee of the party to pass a unanimous resolution Saturday that she lead the party for life.

The Daily Star called this move “unprecedented”.

Zia has been heading the BNP since 1981 after her husband, president Ziaur Rahman, was assassinated in a military putsch. Ziaur Rahman founded the party in 1978.

Her supporters also confirmed the expulsion of Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, long-time secretary general and a minister under Zia, who had aspired to emerge as the leader while she was in jail.

Party leader Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui, who announced the decision to the media Saturday, said the party leaders “firmly believe she will be in a sound physical and mental state to lead them for life. The party will never be minus her”.

Political observers say granting Zia the lifetime mantle of BNP chief will undermine the caretaker government’s efforts to end the culture of the same old faces being in charge of the political parties.

It also goes against electoral reforms espoused by the Election Commission (EC) and the recently revised Representative of the People Order (RPO), The Daily Star pointed out.

Meanwhile, Hasina, still abroad receiving medical treatment, eased out party general secretary Abdul Jalil, who had last year resigned in haste so that he could be let out of jail to go to Singapore for medical treatment. He had apparently not taken permission from Hasina.

Jalil, a businessman-politician, has been “grounded for now on Hasina’s advice due to his ailments”, media reports said.

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