PM pledges free, fair election

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B Chowdhury-led Juktafront places 7-point demand at talks with 14-party at Gono Bhaban; both sides satisfied with outcome

Star Report

Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina yesterday said her party wants a free and fair election so that people can pick their leaders to run the country.

“Our aim is to ensure that they find that leadership,” she said in her introductory speech at a dialogue between the AL-led 14-party alliance and AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury-led Juktafront, reports UNB.

The talks over the next general election began at the Gono Bhaban around 7:30pm yesterday, a day after the PM had a dialogue with Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikyafront.

Hasina, who led the 14-party delegation, welcomed the Juktafront leaders, saying the Gono Bhaban is people’s building.

The 21-member Juktafront team led by Bikalpadhara Bangladesh President Badruddoza placed a seven-point demand. The three-hour dialogue ended around 10:30pm.

Following the talks, Badruddoza said the dialogue with the 14-party alliance was fruitful as Hasina agreed to most of their demands in principle.

The former president, however, said the PM did not agree to their demand for formation of a national or polls-time government. “But she said the election-time government will be neutral.”

“The prime minister has positively responded to our demands for holding a fair election,” he told a press conference at his Baridhara residence last night after the dialogue.

He said the PM assured them that a level-playing field would be ensured for all political parties for the election.

The BDB chief mentioned that the PM agreed with them that all government officials and employees, who will be directly or indirectly involved in the election process, would remain under the EC.

About army deployment during the polls, he said the PM told them that army personnel would be deployed at the upazila level as a striking force.

The Juktafront chief said the PM assured them that she would talk to the president about their objection to the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in the election.

Earlier, emerging from the Gono Bhaban, Badruddoza told reporters that they were satisfied with the outcome of the dialogue. “We are very happy as we could clearly say everything we had in mind.”

BDB Secretary General Abdul Mannan said they had a very good discussion.

Replying to a question, he said they would join the election under the present government.

Briefing reporters about the outcome of the dialogue, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said Juktafront was positive about joining the election as the PM accepted many of its demands.

“They all made positive statements. We have accepted many of their demands. But they did not place any demand for bringing amendments to the constitution.”

He said they endorsed Juktafront’s demand for creating a level-playing field and complying with the election code of conduct after the announcement of the polls schedule.

Quader also said Juktafront demanded deployment of army personnel with magistracy power during the election.

“We said the army will surely be deployed, but as a striking force.”

He mentioned that the Badruddoza-led alliance opposed the use of EVM in the national election.

“We told them that the Election Commission may use it on a limited scale. We also told them that the commission will function under the president, not under the government. The prime minister said she would talk about it with the president.”

Quader said Juktafront also demanded that those arrested for political reasons be released before the election.

“The prime minister asked them to provide me with a list of political prisoners, and then she will take steps following an investigation,” he added.

Earlier during the dialogue, the PM said, “We continued the democratic process after a long struggle. We are working for people’s welfare and taking the country forward. We want the continuation of this trend.”

She mentioned that people would be able to cast votes freely if the democratic process continues. “We want to create this opportunity.”

Hasina also said it is not possible to keep up development without the continuation of the democratic process, according to the UNB report.

The Juktafront delegation included BDB Secretary General Maj (retd) Abdul Mannan, its Vice President Mahmuda Chowdhury, its presidium members Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Golam Sarwar Milon, Abdur Rouf Mannan, Mohammad Yousuf, and former MP HM Golam Reza, BLDP President Nazimuddin Al Azad, Bangladesh NAP Chairman Jebel Rahman Gani, National Democratic Party (NDP) Chairman Khandaker Golam Mortuza, and Janata Party President Sheikh Asaduzzaman.

Earlier on Thursday, the ruling alliance held a meeting with Jatiya Oikyafront leaders. The PM invited them to the Gono Bhaban for talks after Dr Kamal, also president of Gonoforum, wrote to the PM, requesting her to hold a dialogue.

Later, several other political parties wrote to the PM for holding dialogue with them as well. Hasina responded positively to those too.

The PM will hold talks with HM Ershad-led Jatiya Party on Monday.

Source: The Daily Star