Political parties demanding complete withdrawal of ban on political activities
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Staff correspondent

Politicians want unconditional dialogues with the government to create an environment conducive to holding the national elections at the earliest. They said they wanted a complete withdrawal of ban on political activities and the state of emergency to resolve political and economic problems of the country.

‘The prime task of the interim government is to hold the parliamentary elections within the shortest possible time and holding dialogues is the only way to create a congenial atmosphere for national elections…. the government must not tag any condition to holding talks,’ the acting Awami League president, Zillur Rahman, said on Sunday referring to the statement of the chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, on holding dialogues with political parties and withdrawal of the state of emergency.

Fakhruddin, head of the military-controlled interim government, on Friday said the state of emergency would be gradually withdrawn and the ban on indoor politics outside Dhaka would also be lifted ‘if’ the political parties become more accountable. ‘The state of emergency will be relaxed gradually, but you know why time is needed for that. Political parties need to establish accountability within themselves through reforms,’ he told a group of journalists covering the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Admitting that political activities have slowed down, Fakhruddin iterated his government’s plan to lift the restrictions on indoor politics outside Dhaka.

‘But political parties have also responsibility to bring in dynamism in politics,’ he said. Zillur gave a warning that the Awami League would not participate in dialogues if the government tags conditions. Tofail Ahmed, an Awami League presidium member, said the government should not behave in a way that might make elections uncertain. ‘We hope the government will also not set any conditions. The result will, otherwise, not be good,’ he said at a discussion on Sunday.

The Awami League wants to discuss with the government not only elections, but also other political and economic problems now prevailing in the country, he said. Nazrul Islam Khan, a joint secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, believes tagging conditions would deteriorate the relationship between the government and the political parties.

‘Unhindered dialogues between the government and the political parties would help to create a congenial atmosphere for national elections,’ he told reporters. ‘But, I fear, it will be very difficult for the government, if it tags conditions to holding dialogues, to take political parties in confidence and to make the proposed talks successful.’

The Jatiya Mukti Council president, Badruddin Umar, and the secretary, Foizul Hakim, demanded immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of the state of emergency. ‘No condition or shilly-shallying regarding the withdrawal of state of emergency will be accepted,’ they said in a joint statement on Sunday. The Workers Party of Bangladesh president, Rashed Khan Menon, said the government must not tag conditions to holding dialogues. ‘The interim government must not set conditions for dialogue,’ he said. ‘An unelected government does not have the right to tag conditions [for political parties].’

‘We will not join any talks by giving undertaking,’ he said. ‘Rather, the withdrawal of restriction on political activities will help them [the government] to create a congenial environment for holding national elections.’ The Communist Party of Bangladesh general secretary, Mujahidul Islam Selim, said the political parties should be allowed to go for unhindered political activities. ‘Allowing political parties for unrestricted political programmes is the condition to bringing reforms within the parties,’ he said.

‘I do not know about the state of other political parties, but the CPB has not been allowed to hold its national conference,’ he said. The Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh secretary general, Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, declined to comment on the statement of the chief adviser published and broadcast in the media. ‘We prefer not to make comments on the statements published in the media.’ Fakhruddin Ahmed proposed, in an address to the nation on January 12, to hold dialogues with political parties. The agenda and set-up of the dialogue are yet to be disclosed. Intensified watch against bird flu, poultry smuggling ordered.

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