Won`t budge an inch on opp demand for poll reforms: Sheikh Hasina

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday dismissed opposition`s demands for electoral reforms, saying she will not "budge an inch" on constitutional provision and reinstate a caretaker government system.

Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday dismissed opposition`s demands for electoral reforms, saying she will not "budge an inch" on constitutional provision and reinstate a caretaker government system.

"I believe in Constitution and the election will be in line with the Constitution... I won`t budge an inch," she said rejecting the opposition demand of reinstating the caretaker government system for election oversight.

"What is the reason of inviting trouble to people`s lives demonstrating for reinstating the provision?... We want to bring you towards the light, but what you want to see is darkness," she told a press conference at her office here.

The Supreme Court termed caretaker government illegal and the parliament passed 15th amendment to the constitution two years ago abolishing the provision, she said, adding the opposition`s demand is tantamount to disregarding the court`s judgement.

Her comments came as Bangladesh politics plunged into a deeper impasse in the past three days while main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)`s acting secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said it was unlikely that the ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition parties would be able to forge consensus on electoral reforms.

Hasina slammed her arch rival in an emotionally choked voice for celebrating a "fake birthday", coinciding with the death anniversary of her father and Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

"It is not possible for us to compromise with those who celebrate a `fake birthday` on the death anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," Awami League general secretary and Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said.

BNP leader Alamgir responded to Islam`s comments saying, "from the statements of the Prime Minister and other government leaders, it seems that there is no chance of mutual understanding between the AL and BNP over the elections."

Bangladesh observed National Mourning Day on August 15 to mark the 1975 assassination of Rahman, fondly called `Bangabandhu` or `Friend of Bengal`, and most of his family in a military putsch.

Hasina and her younger sister survived as they were abroad at that time.
AL said Zia`s marriage certificate mentioned she was born on September 5, 1945, her first passport states the date of birth as August 19, 1946 while her registration for the matriculation or school final exams states she was born on August 9, 1944.

The birthday controversy began in 1991 when Zia first celebrated it on August 15 after assuming the office of premier and declared the date as her "official birthday" and despite criticism from the AL, BNP went ahead with the birthday celebrations.

Bangladesh witnesses growing public concerns about the
fate of the ejection due to the sharp differences between the two major parties over the restoration of the non-party caretaker government system for election oversight.

AL scrapped the system amending the constitution with its three-fourth majority in parliament two years ago in line with a Supreme Court judgment that said it was contrary to the constitutionalism.

BNP with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, one of its crucial allies in the 18-party opposition alliance, staged violent street protests that left scores dead. They said elections under the party government would not be fare and credible as they were likely to manipulate the polls.

But AL insisted the caretaker system was proved counter- productive as it was abused and failed to protect democracy and rather paved the ways for installation of an army-backed regime to take over and rule the country for two years.

The army-backed regime proclaimed Emergency Rules during 2007-2008 and sent both Hasina and Zia and many leaders of their parties to jail.

"Do you want unconstitutional governments again? Do you want martial law? How come you forgot what happened in 2007 and 2008?" Hasina said responding to a question.

The Prime Minister said that 5,763 elections to different local government bodies and by-polls were held during her government to elect 63,941 people`s representatives while the opposition candidates swept the polls in recent mayoral elections at all the six major cities.

"You could not say anything about the elections... Yet they (BNP) are saying fair election is impossible under the Awami League government," she said.

Hasina recently reminded her arch rival of ordeals they both had experienced under the army-backed regime that confined them for more than a year. The two leaders alternated as prime minister since 1991.

"Both of us will have to go to jail again if caretaker government comes to power again," she told on several occasions in the past weeks.

Hasina earlier offered dialogue to end the impasse but it could not held due to stubborn attitude on the part of both the parties as they tended not to relax their positions.

The army backed regime was installed in 2006 as hostility between the then ruling BNP and opposition AL witnessed an extreme stage ahead of scheduled general elections.


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