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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bangladesh president summons army, plunges country into a new crisis

New Delhi, 11 December (Asiantribune.com): Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed Sunday plunged the country into a constitutional and political crisis. True to his maverick style, he ignored the counsel of his advisors who have worked out a 'package' to end the stand off with the Awami League led 14 party alliance but also deployed army across the country to maintain law and order. Combat troops in war like fashion are seen stationed at key centres according to reports from Dhaka. Any rapprochement with Awami League led alliance now appears nearly impossible. The opposition will gun for the President.

Ahmed has turned to the army by exploiting the Awami League threat held out on Friday that it would go for a tough movement including non-stop sit-in demonstrations around Bangabhaban, the Presidential palace, if he did not concede their demand for poll body reforms. His action came as the 24 –hour deadline set by the League expired.

Bangladesh has been witnessing demonstrations, siege and blockades and violent clashes between Awami League and Bangladesh National Party (BNP) ever since Iajuddin Ahmed took over the reins of the government as a caretaker Administrator after the term of Khaleda Zia led alliance government ended in November. All the actions of this soil
scientist turned BNP appointee as president have smacked of 'partisanship'.

This was for the third time he has called in the troops. On the two occasions in the past month when he decided to deploy forces, he backtracked in the face of stiff resistance from his advisors. This time also the advisors vehemently opposed his move but Iajuddin did not bother to take notice of it.

The unmistakable impression is that President Ahmed is allowing himself to be guided by Khaleda Zia camp, which is becoming desperate by every passing day. To their dismay, Shiekh Hasina led Awami League's alliance is gaining strength though the agitational path they have chosen has brought misery to the common man.

Jatiya Party of former President Ershad has decided to align with the Awami League. So did the newly formed LDP by leaders who have broken ranks with Khaleda Zia protesting that she has allowed herself to be 'dictated by her ambitious' second son.

Early last week it appeared as though the main demand of Awami League for reconstitution of election commission and revision electoral rolls was being met. Two controversial commissioners--SM Zakaria and Modabbir--are to be sent on leave and new election commissioners are to take their place – one of them a pro- BNP judge and another a known Awami loyalist.

Initially President agreed for these changes which had the approval of BNP and AL but later on opposed to sending Zakaria on leave.

BNP leaders have developed cold feet once they realised that after the changes the poll body will not be able to protect their interests. It is this realisation that has led them to prevail upon President Ahmed and made him say no to a new proposal that there be no new appointments to the EC after the two controversial officials go on leave.

On Friday Sheikh Hasina led l4-party alliance has put President Iajuddin Ahmed on a 24-hour notice. "It will not be possible for us to participate in the general election unless EC is reconstituted", Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil told reporters.

Analysts agree that a free and fair poll is a near impossibility in the prevailing situation in Bangladesh. Key posts in the administration are packed with known BNP loyalists. Voters list is full off faults. One estimate puts the bogus voters at a whopping 1.2 crore. An exercise began last week to delete bogus voters but it is at a snail's pace.

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