Move on to form Bangladesh poll-time cabinet

Dhaka, Nov 5 (IANS) Despite the main opposition alliance’s threat to boycott elections, the Bangladesh ruling coalition has initiated moves to form an all-party poll-time interim cabinet in line with PrimeMinister Sheikh Hasina’s proposal.

“We’ll submit our resignation letters to the prime minister in a week,” Xinhua quoted Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, one of the influential members of the Hasina cabinet, as saying Tuesday.

“An all-party poll-time interim cabinet would be formed by the third week or beginning of fourth week of this month,” added Quader, also presidium member of Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) party.

“We need to submit resignation letters to pave the way to form the all-party poll-time government in line with her (prime minister) proposal.”

In a cabinet meeting Monday, ministers reportedly decided that they would resign in the next seven days to pave the way for the formation of the all-party poll-time government headed by Prime Minister Hasina.

Mahbubul Alam Hanif, joint general secretary of AL, reportedly had earlier said that the members of the all-party government would be picked up from the political parties represented in the National Parliament.

The remarks came at a time when former prime minister Khaleda’s main opposition alliance has been waging a movement through enforcement of a non-stop 60-hour strike from Monday, demanding a non-party government to oversee the national elections slated for early 2014.

Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 17 allies, including key Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, Saturday called another round of nationwide non-stop 60-hour strike from Monday morning.

Earlier, the opposition alliance observed a 60-hour countrywide strike from Oct 27 morning amid violent clashes, vandalism, arson and bomb explosions.

Dozens of people, including ruling and the opposition party activists, were killed and hundreds of others injured in stray incidents of violence since Oct 27 in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.

The two top leaders of the south Asian country’s politics talked over phone Oct 26, the first direct conversation between them since January 2009 when Hasina’s cabinet had taken oath of office.

Although the two parties are seeking a dialogue to end the impasse over the formation of the poll-time government, no headway has been being made so far.

Khaleda has asked Hasina’s AL to bring back the caretaker system, or else it would not participate in the next polls because it fears an election without the caretaker government will not be free and fair.

The term of the country’s parliament is due to expire on Jan 24 next year and elections reportedly should be held within 90 days before its expiry.

The BNP has already rejected Hasina’s all-party interim government proposal.

Political tension in Bangladesh heightened in December after the 18-party opposition alliance chalked out anti-government agitation programmes, demanding restoration of the non-party caretaker government system.

Since June 2011, when Bangladesh Parliament abolished the non-party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP-led alliance has been holding mass protests demanding reinstatement of the provision.

The scrapped provision mandated an elected government to transfer power to an unelected non-partisan caretaker administration to oversee a new parliamentary election on the completion of its term.

Political analysts have long been saying that there is no alternative but to reach a consensus over the caretaker issue to avoid further confrontation.

The south Asian nation plunged into a major political crisis in late 2006 and returned to democracy after two years of army-backed rule following a widely acceptable parliament elections in 2008 under a caretaker government.

Since 1996, in Bangladesh, the caretaker government has held elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008, which were recognised as free and fair by local and international observers.