INTERNATIONAL

Lift Emergency before polls: BNP

Haroon Habib

DHAKA: The four-party alliance led by the former Prime Minister, KhaledaZia, has criticised the caretaker government for not rescheduling theDecember 18 election. However, it has not announced its decision to boycottit after the government announced the election would be held as scheduled.

On Wednesday, a government spokesman said the government had considered todefer the election to December 28 and "upazila" polls to January 8. But itdecided to stick to the schedule since the major parties had failed to reachconsensus.

The rescheduling was considered following Ms. Zia's 48-hour ultimatum to thegovernment to come up with a fresh poll schedule. The deadline endedWednesday.

However, the deadline to file nominations has been pushed back three days toNovember 23. Hours before the government's announcement, Chief ElectionCommissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda said the Election Commission was ready tohold the election on December 28 if all parties to agreed on the date.

The BNP-led alliance, including the Jamaat-E-Islami, termed the announcement"unilateral" and "unacceptable."

On Thursday, after a meeting chaired by Ms. Zia, the BNP alleged thegovernment was trying to exclude the alliance from the election. When askedwhether the alliance would take part in the polls, he said: "We are closelyobserving the situation."

The alliance also demanded the government lift the Emergency. "An electionunder Emergency cannot be free and fair. The four-party alliance will not gofor such an election, nor will it be acceptable to the people."

Meanwhile, the former Prime Minister and Awami League president, SheikhHasina, said her party and its allies wanted all parties to take part in theelection. A majority of the political parties, including the League-led14-party alliance and the Jatiya Party, preferred holding the election onDecember 18. They say the sooner the polls are held the better it would befor the transition to a multi-party democracy.

Also, Ms. Hasina and H. M. Ershad, former President and Jatiya Party chief,have formed an electoral alliance. The announcement came after a meetingbetween Mr. Ershad and Ms. Hasina at the latter's residence on Tuesday. "We'll participate in the election and form government together," said Mr.Ershad.

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