By Haroon Habib
DHAKA: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Richard Boucher, has told the former Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, that Washington would not accept the rescheduling of general elections, slated to be in December this year.
“The U.S. wants to see an elected government assuming office in Bangladesh as there is no alternative to democratic rule,” said Mr. Boucher during a meeting with Ms. Hasina — leader of the Awami League party — at the State Department Friday.
The hour-long meeting was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty, State Department officials and Ms. Hasina’s aides. Later, she held a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh. Ms. Hasina’s aide, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, said Ms. Hasina apprised Mr. Boucher of the political situation in Bangladesh.
Ms. Hasina, who was released on parole last month after 11 months of detention to seek medical treatment in the U.S., said Bangladeshis had begun to doubt if elections would be held as scheduled. She opposed the caretaker government’s plan to hold local government polls in October ahead of the national elections, stating: “If these elections are conducted first, the people’s doubt will further deepen.” The caretaker government is duty-bound to hold free, fair and transparent elections and transfer power to an elected government, she added.
She told U.S. officials that her party supported the anti-corruption drive launched by the government and would continue with it if elected. However, she said her party would not carry out political arrests in the name of the anti-corruption drive.
Begum Khaleda Zia’s party, the BNP, has accused the caretaker government of ‘double standards’. The government recently released Ms. Zia’s son, Arafat Rahman Koko, and allowed him to go abroad for medical treatment. Ms. Zia’s release from prison is being delayed due to her demand that her elder son, Tariq Rahman, who has been arrested on corruption charges, should also be freed along with her.
National Mourning Day
The High Court has declared illegal the cancellation of National Morning Day on August 15 — the day the country’s independence hero, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated in 1975. The judgment was delivered on Sunday by a division Bench comprising Justice Mohammad Abdur Rashid and Justice Mohommad Ashfaqul Islam following a writ petitions, which challenged the decision taken by the BNP-led coalition government soon after it came to power in 2002.
On August 8, 1996, the Awami League government headed by the then Premier, Sheikh Hasina, declared August 15 as National Mourning Day to pay respect to Mujibur Rahman.
The High Court had earlier asked the caretaker government to explain why the decision taken by Ms. Zia’s government to cancel the National Mourning Day should not be declared illegal.
At least 20 people were injured and thousands fled their homes after an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter Scale rocked Dhaka and many parts of Bangladesh early on Sunday.
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi