‘Parties have to decide polls matters’

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said it is up to Bangladesh’s political parties to decide how to conduct the national polls as Jatiya Party President HM Ershad told him that his party wants an election participated by all.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 4 March 2013, 01:24 AM
Updated : 4 March 2013, 11:24 AM

“I told him (Mukherjee) that we want an election participated by all. The (Indian) President also wants that for taking democracy forward,” Ershad said while briefing journalists after a meeting with Mukherjee.

The former military dictator said they discussed a whole range of issues including politics as there is an impasse going on in Bangladesh over who will oversee the next general elections following the government’s scrapping the polls-time caretaker administration provision in the Constitution.

The BNP and other opposition parties oppose the amendment to the statute and are now demanding restoration of the caretaker provision, without which, they apprehend, the polls will not be free and fair.

Different sections, including business leaders, have suggested that the ruling coalition and the opposition start a dialogue to find a way out. Ershad suggested an alternative -- a multi-party committee to oversee the polls -- during his recent visit to the US.

The former dictator said he had been assured by Mukherjee of Indian efforts to go ahead with the Teesta water-sharing agreement and implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement.

Ershad said he also discussed with him the strikes now enforced in the country.

Ershad told a frustrated member of the President's entourage, who complained of not being able to move around freely in Dhaka due to the strike, that he himself did not like it. "But it has no connection with what you may think," he said, suggesting that the strikes were driven by domestic realities and had nothing to do with the visit of the Indian President.

The Jamaat-e-Islami is enforcing a two-day strike ending on Monday, while its ally, the BNP, has called another nationwide shutdown for Tuesday. The three-day strike coincides with Mukherjee's trip.

The Indian President arrived in Dhaka on Sunday, the first day of the Jamaat’s strike. He met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, but the Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia cancelled her meeting citing security concerns.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher