US asks Dhaka to hold early polls

May 22nd, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Dhaka, May 22 (IANS) Two senior US officials have advised Bangladesh’s caretaker government not to emulate Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf who was “eventually forced out” and warned that the political situation would deteriorate if elections were delayed beyond December. “The US would not want to see Bangladesh replicate Pakistan’s time under President General Pervez Musharraf, who had initially accomplished a number of projects and enjoyed popularity but eventually fell out with the people and was forced out,” the recently-appointed US envoy to Dhaka James S. Moriarty said Wednesday.

“We do not want to see that sort of development in Bangladesh,” he was quoted by The Daily Star as saying even as Erica Barks-Ruggles, US deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour, conveyed an identical message to the government.

The state of emergency during voting would not be compatible with free and fair elections, the latest US State Department official to visit Dhaka said after meeting top officials at the Election Commission.

The two were echoing the views expressed earlier this month by Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state.

Similar sentiments have also been expressed by the European Union and visiting British leaders in the recent weeks.

The reinforcement of the US viewpoint came even as the caretaker government began a dialogue with political parties Thursday, ostensibly preparing for the civic polls and the general elections promised for this December.

“We fear that if the elections are not held in time, things such as the political situation will deteriorate in Bangladesh,” Moriarty said.

The US envoy also said the caretaker government should not prolong its stay “because it does not have the popular mandate and the country must return to democracy to fulfil its economic potential”.

Foreign direct investment or local investment would not be available without democracy and political stability, Moriarty said, identifying corruption as the biggest and main “enemy of democracy”.

General elections were called off in January last year amidst political and economic turmoil and the present government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed took office, imposing a national emergency.

It has launched a drive against crime and corruption, detaining over 200,000 people, about 200 of them high profile former ministers, lawmakers, officials and business persons.

Former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina and their family members and apolitical associates are in jail being prosecuted for corruption.

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