Bangladesh parties suspend blockade

Haroon Habib

DHAKA: Life in Bangladesh took a turn for the worse on Wednesday as the nationwide protests for electoral reforms continued for the 4th consecutive day crippling Dhaka and major towns.

However, the 14-party combine's leader, Sheikh Hasina, announced postponement of the blockade `in view of public sufferings' till Sunday next. It vowed to resume the blockade from Monday for an indefinite period, if President-cum-caretaker government chief Iajuddin Ahmed failed to prove his constitutional neutrality.

Even in the face of protests for his resignation, Chief Election Commissioner, justice M.A. Aziz, refused to do so. However, the other three Commissioners in the beleaguered Election Commission, whose removal was high on the demand, have hinted they might quit "anytime" to avoid further embarrassments.

The caretaker government, which has been requesting Justice Aziz to resign, said it might undertake "different means" to reform the Commission since he declined to quit voluntarily.

The Government concluded talks with six major political alliances and parties. Except the Khaleda Zia-led alliance, all the five including the 14-party combine and Gen. H . .Ershad' Jatiya Party have strongly recommended removal of Justice Aziz and restructuring of the E.C. "without delay."

Finance Adviser Akbar Ali Khan, who is heading an advisers' team to find a solution, said the Government would be able to come up with a decision on the Commission reform despite wide differences. "Rest assured that we'll be able to reach a decision within the limited period," he told a news briefing. Meanwhile the blockade halted all modes of transportation and business across the country. Shops and business establishments and educational institutions remained closed.

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