Bangladesh parties plan agitation for early polls

May 4th, 2008 - 2:31 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 4 (IANS) Bangladesh’s major political parties are launching an agitation to seek freedom for their jailed leaders amidst growing doubts whether the caretaker government would keep to their promise of holding polls by year-end. The government, planning a dialogue this month with all political parties and groups, has said it will allow controlled protests.

The government has allowed top leaders of the Awami League (AL), the country’s largest party, to sit on a six-hour hunger strike Monday, but strictly indoors at their two offices, New Age newspaper said Sunday.

On top of the AL’s agenda is the release of its leader, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, 61, who has been in jail since last July and has been ailing.

AL’s pressures and informal talks with the government have not worked so far to release Hasina on bail and facilitate her visit to the US for medical treatment.

International concern and criticism, as expressed by Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime Minister Tony Blair, have also failed to move the government that, political analysts say, is seeking a quid pro quo in the form of participation by the political parties in a dialogue on political reforms.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of the other jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia too is closing ranks to get her released.

BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain Saturday asked party leaders and workers to prepare for agitation against the government that imposed emergency last year.

“The state of emergency for a long time itself is a kind of terrorism. The BNP will lead in changing the existing situation,” Hossain was quoted as saying by The Daily Star Sunday.

The caretaker government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed is pushing for “political reforms” even as the Election Commission, de-limiting parliamentary constituencies as per law, prepares for the polls.

The parties allege the reforms are meant to divide them, just as their leaders say the corruption charges for which they are jailed and put on trial are “politically motivated”.

“No manipulated election would be allowed in the country. The BNP will not participate in any election keeping party chairperson Khaleda Zia in jail,” said Hossain.

Political parties and media commentators have frequently questioned the army-backed government’s intentions to hold the polls by December.

Left-leaning Workers Party chief Rashed Khan Menon Saturday called for “a joint effort to restore democracy” among the political forces other than the Islamist parties and urged professional groups also to join in the effort, The Daily Star reported.

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