Act responsibly: US official to Dhaka politicians

November 1st, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 1 (IANS) US Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher has urged the political parties in Bangladesh to “act responsibly” for ensuring a free and fair conduct of the Dec 18 parliamentary election. The US had no confusion that the polls would be held on schedule, he sought to reassure former prime minister and Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina at his Washington office Friday, The Daily Star newspaper said quoting reports from US-based news agencies News World and American News Agency (ANA).

In the US for the past four months, Hasina met Boucher accompanied by her US-based son Sajeeb Wazed Joy, as they agreed that holding of the election in time is crucially important for the country’s democratic institutions.

The American caution-cum-reassurance came even as the Election Commission (EC) that is tasked to hold the crucial polls, has come under repeated pressure from political parties.

Political analysts see this as a repeat of the 2006 developments that eventually led to the polls being cancelled and imposition of a national emergency that continues.

AL had opposed the then Chief Election Commissioner M.A. Aziz, alleging that he had earlier been a functionary of the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

It is the BNP’s turn to return the compliment, although the present poll body was constituted by the caretaker government.

BNP chairperson and another former prime minister Khaleda Zia Friday demanded resignation of the election commissioners, claiming they are not neutral and can never hold free and fair elections.

“It is very clear that the EC is speaking in favour of a particular party. If they really love this country, if they really want a free, fair and neutral election in the country, then they should resign and hand over power to unbiased people so that they can hold a free and fair election,” she was quoted as saying in New Age newspaper Saturday.

She alleged, without naming, that the EC and the government were favouring the rival AL.

“This government and the EC are not neutral… the government is working in favour of a particular party and they want to get their preferred party elected. People of that party are being appointed at different places including in the administration and in educational institutions.

“This EC can never hold a free, fair and credible election,” Zia said.

“In fact, this government has been appointed to protect the interest of that party,” she said. “People want the elections and any conspiracy against the elections will not be acceptable.”

Significantly, AL is unhappy with the government, especially since it has kept opposing bail to Hasina who has been embroiled in many graft cases.

Hasina is on parole since June for medical reasons and is due back home on Nov 10.

Complicating the EC’s task and delaying the poll notification are the Islamist parties, who are Zia’s allies. Zia’s BNP has not received EC’s registration yet and the Islamist parties are resisting changes in their respective party constitutions that require them to abide by the country’s constitution.

Most of the Islamist parties had opposed Bangladesh’s liberation.

Meanwhile, two economists who were advisers (ministers) in charge of the finance portfolio in previous regimes have warned that the country could face serious political and economic setback if the polls are not held on schedule.

Any setback in holding the national elections Dec 18 might spell disaster for the country’s politics and economy, making things unmanageable for the government of the day, Wahiduddin Mahmud and Akbar Ali Khan have warned.

They said the country would not be able to face the fallout of the current global financial turmoil if there was no credible political leadership at the helm.

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