Bangladesh party seeks non-political rep to oversee polls

Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) will not accept any ruling Awami League (AL) leader, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at the helm of the caretaker or interim administration to oversee the next parliamentary election.

The talk in the political arena is that the AL might go for an interim government under the leadership of President Zillur Rahman or Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina or Speaker Abdul Hamid to administer the next polls to avoid a political crisis.

But the BNP wants a non-political person in the position, party leaders said.

The government scrapped the caretaker system in June last year following a Supreme Court verdict, which declared the system illegal but observed it could be in place for another two terms. The court also asked parliament to amend the constitution so that any former chief justices or other SC judges cannot be made head of such governments.

BNP insiders say they are taking this part of the verdict into consideration, and will therefore propose to pick for the job someone acceptable to the major political parties through a consensus.

A time frame for the interim administration and also holding the elections will also be in the proposal, they added.

The party plans to unveil a model for the system at its March 12 rally at Nayapaltan in the capital and issue a 30-day or 90-day ultimatum for the government to restore it.

Some top BNP leaders are now preparing the proposal.

"At the rally, party Chairperson Khaleda Zia will offer some important features about the formation of the interim administration and its characteristics," a senior leader said, wishing anonymity.

"Elections cannot be free and fair under the Awami League or any of its leaders. That is why we launched a movement for a non-party caretaker government," Rafiqul Islam Mia, a standing committee member, told The Daily Star.

Asked about top AL leaders heading the interim administration, standing committee member Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said, "The question does not arise at all of accepting any Awami League leader as the chief of the interim government."

On February 13, Khaleda at a Chandpur rally said, "It will not be acceptable that the prime minister, ministers and lawmakers hold their positions even during the polls."

Meanwhile, campaigns and last-minute preparations are underway to make the March 12 rally a success. In addition to organising leaders and supporters across the country, the party is readying itself for "instant resistance" against any attempts by any quarters to foil the programme.

Party acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has already warned that the government will not be able to control the situation if BNP supporters are obstructed from joining the rally.

Titled "Dhaka Cholo" (Let's March to Dhaka), the BNP predicts this to be one of the biggest ever gatherings of the leaders and activists of the four-party alliance, which includes the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The BNP's city unit leaders said party workers would be at different entrances of the capital to receive party supporters coming from across the country to join the rally. There will be at least 18 such teams, each having more than 50 members.

"We'll be all prepared to resist any obstruction at any entrance to the capital," said a senior leader of the city unit.

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