Mind your own business
Friday, 26 September 2008

AL asks business leaders, lawyer

Staff Correspondent

The Awami League has asked business leaders and a top lawyer to mind their own business and not meddle with politics.

"We haven't yet received any message from the interim government about the proposed dialogue that might be held between Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia," Acting Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam said on Thursday.
 
He briefed reporters after his meeting with deputy British high commissioner Duncan Norman at his NAM flats residence.
 
"The Awami League will consider the two-leader dialogue only after the government invites us officially to such a meeting.
 
"But interestingly, a lawyer and business people seem to be overly intrigued by the possibilities of the summit. I'd advise them to pursue their own professions and not bother the politicians."
 
"The government may try such 'special effects' behind the scenes, after doing adequate ground work."
 
Barrister Rafiqul Huq, who defends both Hasina and BNP chief Khaleda in court, has been trying to seat the former prime ministers together to discuss national issues and has said he spoke to both leaders.
 
Following suit, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which represents the business community, Annisul Huq, recently said they were also trying to get the two arch political rivals to sit across the table.
 
Education adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman said recently that the government had approached the lawyer to help bring the two top leaders across the table to discuss the nation's many crises.
 
'Fear' over Hasina's life
 
Ashraful said he had information that Hasina might be attacked again during the ensuing election campaign.
 
Norman later said to reporters: "I came to meet the Awami League acting general secretary to convey three messages.
 
"One, the two major political parties must participate in the elections; two, violence and excesses must be shunned and three, democratic institutions have to be strengthened."
 
"The national parliament and the Election Commission have to be made more effective. I'll convey the same message to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party too."
 
The British diplomat said, "Bangladesh has its share of bloodied political past, which is not good for its people and the land."
 
Asked if a level playing field had been readied for the polls, he said: "We think people must have the opportunity to choose their leaders and governors."
 
Briefing reporters on the discussion, Ashraful said, "We all want the polls to be held peacefully, but even the British diplomats here are apprehensive about atrocities and militant attacks that might affect us."
 
"JMB (militant outfit Ja'matul Mujahideen Bangladesh) elements are still active, I'm afraid. The militants don't respect democracy; they're liable to destroy any institution."
 
He quoted the diplomat as saying that they were worried about the safety of people through the electioneering period.
 
"I've information of impending attacks (on Hasina)," Ashraful said.
 
He would not disclose the source of his intelligence, though.
 
The former prime minister had a brush with death when she narrowly escaped a series of grenade blasts on a rally at the party's headquarters on Aug. 21, 2003.
 
The Awami League blames the attack, the left 24 including a top party leader dead and scores injured, on the BNP-led coalition that was in office at the time and the Islamist militants.
 
He feared professional terrorists and political militants might turn out to be more and more active and launch violent attacks on the people.
 
"We're worried about our chief's security. We'd like the government to ensure her safety through Special Security Force."
 
Asked to comment on the government opposing Hasina's bail petitions on Wednesday, he said, "The government should understand that the court is not the place for sorting out political differences."
 
On the media reports that Hasina passing on directives in writing to the party policymakers, he said, "I've received no such letter, nor have I heard anyone or our offices receiving any such thing."

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