No polls in Bangladesh till end-2008
Apr 6, 2007 - 5:02:38 PM

Dhaka, April 6 - There will be no elections in Bangladesh till 2008-end, the caretaker government of the country has conveyed to the United States.

Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed conveyed this to Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, when the two met in New Delhi at the end of the 14th SAARC Summit earlier this week.

Ahmed met Boucher a day after US envoy in Dhaka, Patricia Butenis, sought a time-frame within which the government would complete its electoral reforms and hold elections, which were called off in January amid political turmoil.

According to Fahim Munaim, press secretary to Ahmed, the chief advisor told Boucher that the people of Bangladesh do not want to return to the earlier chaotic days and the government was trying to meet a variety of demands from the previously disenfranchised sections.

Boucher told the chief adviser that the US was very supportive and would continue to support the steps being taken by the caretaker government because they wanted 'people to freely choose their representatives'.

Echoing the government's decision, Chief Election Commissioner - A.T.M. Shamsul Huda said the commission 'will not think about holding any elections either to parliament or local government bodies in the next one-and-a-half years'.

'During this time, we will simultaneously prepare a voters' list with photographs and national identity cards. Once the massive task is done, we will think about holding elections. But now we cannot give any timeline when the elections are likely to be held,' Daily Star quoted Huda as saying.

When the electoral roll is prepared, 'there would be a lot of other tasks to be done. The government will have to create a congenial atmosphere for elections.'

Huda did not elaborate. The caretaker government, which took office in January and imposed a national emergency banning all political activity, has been conducting a drive against corruption, crime and militancy.

'So, we cannot say that parliamentary elections will be held just after 18 months. We will be ready for elections after 18 months if everything goes smoothly.'

'There is no scope to expedite our plan. This is the minimum time - subject to fulfilment of several conditions,' Huda said.

Ahmed also conveyed this to various South Asian leaders when he met them on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.

Media reports indicate that Ahmed's viewpoint was appreciated by his South Asian counterparts, who expressed the hope that he would succeed in his endeavour.

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