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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2790

Bangaldesh crisis deepens, 12 killed, 2000 hurt in clashes

By M Rama Rao - Reporting from India

New Delhi, 29 October ( Bangladesh is slipping into a vortex of violence with at least 12 deaths and 2000 hurt in the clashes between ruling and opposition cadres across the country as the constitutional crisis is defying a solution.

The term of the Khaleda Zia government is over and the Prime Minister is ready to handover the reigns of power. But there is no caretaker set up in place to accept the charge. Justice K M Hasan, a former chief justice and the choice of Khaleda for the job has developed cold feet at the last moment.

President Iajuddin Ahmed has volunteered to fill the 'vacuum' but opposition Awami League of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the proposal outright saying, 'Iajuddin is more politically biased than Hasan since he was picked up by the BNP lawmakers (for the post).

Iajuddin is making a fresh attempt to thrash out a solution on Sunday. He is meeting top leaders of four major political parties – Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party (of Gen Ershad, and fundamentalist Jamaat in a bid to find a consensus man who could hold elections as a caretaker advisor (interim prime minister). This concept of caretaker is a decade old Bangladesh innovation as the two Begums do not like to either to be at the helm of affairs at election time. In fact, Khaleda could take the credit as it was she who made Hasina agree to the concept.

" The transfer of power to a non-partisan interim government will not take place as scheduled Saturday because retired chief justice Hasan is sick", said presidential spokesman Mokhlesur Rahman Chowdhury. No new date has been set for the power transfer. Under Bangladesh constitution, Khaleda Zia, whose five-year term ended Friday at midnight, can stay in power for a maximum 15 more days.

Opposition as also knowledgeable sources aver that the Justice Hasan is unwilling to take up the responsibility as he fears more violent protests by the opposition against his appointment.

Surprisingly, Khaleda Zia is talking tough. She has asked Hasina andothers in the opposition to 'accept whatever President decides'. She is the opposition parties with leading the country to anarchy. "We will not sit back and allow them (opposition) to create anarchy", she is thundering.

For a brief while on Saturday there was some hope of a breakthrough to the impasse. After Hasan formally put in his no, the President asked the BNP and AL secretary generals to find a way out. Consensus eluded them. Reason; the two names suggested by Awami League were unacceptable to BNP.

Awami League secretary general leader Abdul Jalil proposed the names of former judges Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury and Hamidul Haque. But his BNP counterpart Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan did not accept either name. Why? Jalil earlier rejected the two names BNP had proposed- of Justice Hasan and Chief Election Commissioner Aziz.

As it became clear that the two begums are in no mood for consensus, President Iajuddin threw his hat into the ring.

"The president expressed his desire to assume the post of the chief adviser to the caretaker government, but we told him that we want to follow the constitution," Jalil told reporters after consulting with the party chief.

He said his party would not object to anyone except Hasan and Chief Election Commissioner MA Aziz becoming the caretaker government head. Jalil proposed the names of forcer justices Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury and Hamidul Haque as alternate candidates.

The Sheikh Hasina led 14-party opposition alliance is agitating for a long while against Hasan accusing him of being a card holder of Khaleda Zia's BNP. He did not help his cause by attending functions organised by the BNP cadres in the interiors.

Till early this week it appeared as though Khaleda will agree to dump Hasan in a trade off with the opposition to at least have her say in the composition of the Election Commission. But hardliners in her entourage stalled such possibility and the talks that were held with the opposition under the pressure of the Americans and local business leaders ended in a stalemate.

Left to herself, Khaleda Zia will opt for Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) MA Aziz as the head of the caretaker government. ut this proposal is not acceptable to the Awami League. The main opposition's choice for the job is another former chief justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury. The League argument is that Aziz as poll body chief is a constitutional functionary and that Bangaldesh constitution bars one constructional functionary to take up another constitutional job.

Khaleda Zia's luck appears to be running out. More than one hundred of her party's seniors have floated Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) this Thursday. Their charge is that Khaleda is perpetuating dynasty rule and is working under the influence of her elder son who has already been named her successor.

The new party is led by two stalwarts Col Oli Ahmed and Dr Badruddoza Chowdhury. About a year ago, Badruddoza left BNP and floated his own outfit. Their coming together on the eve of elections is also bad news for Sheik Hasina, who along with Khaleda has been dominatingm Bangladesh scene. Like Khaleda, she is also accused of not delivering on promises when in office.

- Asian Tribune -

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