Polls in Bangladesh before end-2008: chief advisor
Apr 12, 2007 - 11:10:52 PM

Dhaka, April 12 - The general elections in Bangladesh, called off amid political turmoil three months ago, would be held before the end of 2008, Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed said Thursday evening.

Ahmed, who is heading the caretaker government and performs the prime ministerial functions, made the announcement in the course of a national broadcast/telecast, marking completion of three months in office.

He told the nation, now in a state of emergency, that his government would not continue in office 'a single day more than necessary'.

While in office, it was committed to 'establishing a sustainable framework' that would ensure that 'not only the next election, but all elections in the long run are held in a free, fair and neutral manner'.

Alluding to the current efforts at electoral reforms, Ahmed that the future elections would be 'free from all unwarranted influences, including money and muscle power'.

His statement about the timing of the election was in effect a reiteration of what he has been saying in the face of demands from political parties for a time frame for holding the elections.

The end-2008 time frame, he said, was 'as desired by the people.'

This was the message he had delivered to fellow leaders at the recent 14th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation - in New Delhi, where he represented Bangladesh and passed on the chair of the regional body to India.

A former banker who headed the country's central bank, and also had a stint with the World Bank, Ahmed was brought in on Jan 12, a day after President Iajuddin Ahmed proclaimed a state of emergency.

Political activity, even indoors, has been banned under the emergency rules.

Ahmed's administration has had to fend off criticism and speculation that it is 'army-run' and 'army-guided', since the armed forces are engaged in arrests and investigations against those being nabbed for crime and corruption.

Ahmed has told international media that those who make such accusations are unaware of the ground realities in Bangladesh.

The country has in the last three months witnessed a massive drive against corruption and crime wherein an estimated 45,000 people have been detained and are being prosecuted.

Those detained include a large number of high-profile politicians.

The political parties have been on the defensive by the actions of the administration. Serious charges of murder and extortion have been levelled against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, while politician son of another former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, has been in jail for the past one month.

'I would like to state categorically that we shall not stay in office a single day more than necessary. I have firm faith that it would be possible for us to hold the parliamentary elections, as desired by the people, before the expiry of the year 2008,' Ahmed was quoted as saying by the United News of Bangladesh - news agency.

In his 22-minute speech, the chief advisor touched upon his government's stance on future elections, reforms, combating corruption, depoliticisation of the administration, independence of the judiciary and issues relating to the national economy, Star Online said.

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