Terrorism to top Awami poll manifesto, BNP to look east

December 7th, 2008 - 5:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 7 (IANS) Tackling terrorism in cooperation with other South Asian neighours is high on the agenda of the two political alliances in Bangladesh as they prepare for the ninth general election Dec 29. Initiative for a regional water arrangement with India, Nepal and Bhutan and joining the Asian road and rail highways are high on the poll promises of the Awami League (AL) of former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, that leads a “Grand Alliance” of 14 centrist and Left-of-centre parties.

The rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) wants to root out corruption from public life and make “Look East Policy” the basis of its ties with the outside world.

Hasina was prime minister during 1996-2001, while Zia, who ruled for two terms (1991-96 and 2001-06) too heads a four-party alliance of Islamists.

“Economic diplomacy will be the base of the BNP’s foreign policy,” an adviser to the party chairperson Khaleda Zia told The Daily Star newspaper.

The “look east” in regional terms could mean less dependence on neighbouring India with which the BNP has had only cold ties, political analysts said.

Along with a ‘look east policy’, the draft manifesto promises that the BNP will take steps towards an integrated anti-terrorism and anti-militancy policy with effective participation of ten countries of the region, if voted to power.

The elections were called off in January last year after months of political turmoil.

A military-backed interim government has been running the country for 23 months, conducting an anti-graft drive that at one stage had 200,000 people behind bars, including the two women leaders.

Hundreds of political workers, including former ministers and lawmakers, charged with corruption, are on bail contesting the election.

While the BNP has a 100-day plan for arresting the economic slide-down, the Awami League has finalised its manifesto with a pledge, among many others, to construct metro tunnel and circular rail in Dhaka, the capital city, to remove traffic jams and solve transport problems.

Both manifestos are likely to be unveiled next Friday.

The AL will frame a strategy paper containing both mid-term and long-term plans to implement its election pledges, says the manifesto, which was formally approved by the party Saturday.

The Daily Star said it obtained a copy of the manifesto, which says AL will deal five matters on an urgent basis including tackling price hike of essentials, resolving power crisis, continuing the drive against corruption, and thwarting terrorism and militancy with an iron hand.

The BNP manifesto was, however, drafted by a handful of close aides to chairperson Khaleda Zia, “keeping most of the top leaders in the dark”.

The Awami League also promises construction of hanging bridges on the Padma and Karnaphuli rivers, connecting Bangladesh with Asian Highway and railway, and building a deep-sea port.

The party says 100 percent net enrolment at primary-level education and supply of pure drinking water for all will be ensured by 2011.

Besides, the party pledges to make the country self-reliant in food, bring each house under hygienic sanitation, up annual growth rate to 8 percent, and generate 7,000 megawatt of electricity by 2013.

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