Bangladesh parties realign for December polls

July 25th, 2008 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, July 25 (IANS) Former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina has struck a pre-poll alliance with an old ally, the Jatiya Party of former president Hussain Muhammad Ershad, utilising the eight-week freedom from imprisonment granted to her for medical treatment. The alliance of Jatiya Party with the Awami League was struck at meetings held last week in London, where Hasina is currently staying. It is aimed at taking on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami, The Daily Star newspaper reported Friday.

The Awami League and Jatiya Party together won 47.24 percent of votes cast in the last parliamentary elections in 2001. At the London parleys, it was decided that the revived “grand alliance” would have no truck with religious extremists and garner support from among centrist and left-of-centre parties including the Communists.

Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana, Jatiya Party acting chairman Anisul Islam Mahmud and presidium member Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu attended the meetings mediated by Ershad.

The moves are in time for the general elections in the third week of December.

Hasina, who heads a 14-party alliance, may have scored a political point over her arch political rival, BNP chief and another former prime Minister Khaleda Zia, political analysts said.

Zia, who had two tenures as prime minister - 1991-96 and 2001-06 - remains in jail on graft charges.

After weeks of pressures and behind the scene talks, she has managed to secure parole for her ailing younger son, Arafat Rahman Koko, while the elder, Tarique Rahman, also said to be seriously ill, remains behind bars.

Media reports this week said his parole for medical reasons had run into trouble.

Slapped with many charges, including corruption and misuse of proximity with his mother when she was in power, Tarique is considered the prime catch in the anti-graft drive launched by Bangladesh’s military backed government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Both Hasina and Zia, as also the Jamaat, joined hands to remove Ershad in 1990, ending a nine-year military-guided rule, the longest anyone in Bangladesh has had.

Ershad, who ruled during 1982-90, has been acquitted of charges in many long-pending court cases.

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