BNP joining talks to reiterate CG restoration demand: Fakhrul

BNP acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir addressing a party rally recently.

THE main opposition BNP said on Tuesday it would join the dialogue with the president only to place its demand of restoring the caretaker government system.

The party would reiterate that it will not join the next parliamentary elections if the CG system is not reinstated, Bangla daily Prothom Alo quoted Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the party’s acting secretary general, as saying.

The statement came hours after the party confirmed its position to join the ongoing dialogue President Zillur Rahman is holding with political parties on forming the next Election Commission.

Talking to journalists after placing a wreath at the grave of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Fakhrul said his party would bring the president’s attention to the overall political condition of the country during the talks.

Earlier on Monday, the two main political parties – Awami League and BNP – received invitation letters from the president to join the talks.

The BNP-led four-party alliance met Monday night hours after the main opposition got the invitation letter.

“We’ve taken the decision to join the dialogue after discussion among the alliance components,” Mirza told The Daily Star after the meeting.

On the opening day of the dialogue on December 22, the BNP termed “meaningless and ill-motivated” the dialogue through bypassing the caretaker government issue.

“The dialogue has to be on the issue of the caretaker government,” said a standing committee member of BNP after a meeting of the party’s highest policy-making body Thursday night.

Mirza Fakhrul the same day questioned the motive behind the dialogue. “The president is a highly respected person. But he does not determine politics. And that is why it’s not comprehensible why he is holding the dialogue.”

“The president is not supposed to take such initiatives,” he said, adding that the move should have been made by the people who can implement political parties’ recommendations on forming the Election Commission.

In the third day’s talks with the president, Communist Party of Bangladesh and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Tuesday demanded restoration of the caretaker government system, saying it is a must for credible parliamentary elections.

In the second round of talks, the president on Monday told two separate delegations of Workers Party and Jatiya Party-JP that he will ask the government to enact a law in line with the constitution that will require formation of a “search committee” to find appropriate persons from among whom the chief election commissioner and the other election commissioners will be appointed.

While holding talks with WP, a component of AL-led grand alliance, and Jatiya Party-JP at Bangabhaban, the president however said enacting the proposed law is a time consuming matter, meeting sources said.

On Thursday, the president held the first round of talks with HM Ershad-led Jatiya Party, and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal. The parties proposed formation of a committee to search for eligible and acceptable individuals to constitute a new Election Commission.

On expiry of the tenure of the present EC in early February, the president, on advice of the prime minister, will have to appoint a chief election commissioner and other election commissioners to form the new EC.

Against such a backdrop, the president started the talks with political parties on Thursday, seeking their opinions on the matter.

The government in June scrapped the caretaker government system, thus allowing the incumbent administration to oversee the next general election due in early 2014.

Parliament on June 30 abolished the system by passing the 15th amendment to the constitution, with the main opposition BNP terming it “throwing the country into a political confrontation”.

According to the latest amendment, the next parliamentary election will be held within 90 days prior to the current parliament’s dissolution.

This means the 10th parliamentary elections will be held at the end of 2013 or at the beginning of 2014 as the tenure of the current parliament will expire on January 24, 2014.

Immediately after passage of the bill, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the floor and said through this amendment her government ensured empowerment of the people.

But the cancellation of the caretaker government system, introduced in 1996 by the then BNP-led government, triggered stiff protests from the BNP-led opposition.

They have been reiterating that they will never participate in a parliamentary election under the AL-led government, fearing that the incumbent will manipulate the poll in its favour.

Under the just scrapped caretaker system, after dissolution of a parliament the elected government would hand over power to a non-partisan caretaker government that would provide all sorts of cooperation to the EC to hold a general election within 90 days of the parliament’s dissolution, to constitute a new House.

Introduced in the constitution in 1996, the caretaker system has overseen holding of three parliamentary polls, including the last one in 2008 that was swept by the AL-led grand alliance.

All the three parliamentary elections were considered by and large free and fair by local and international observers.

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