Hasina to meet panel on Islamic references in constitution
Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will on Wednesday appear before a parliamentary committee examining whether to retain or remove Islamic religious references in the country's Constitution.
Political parties are so far divided on the issue. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has declined to participate, saying the entire debate was "motivated".
Its chief and former prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, refused to appear before the committee.
The panel is reviewing the Constitution in the light of a Supreme Court verdict last year that annulled several amendments brought about during 1975-90 when Bangladesh was a military-led nation. The Constitution was originally drafted in 1972 with 'secularism' as one of its basic pillars.
A country with 90 percent plus Muslim population, Bangladesh was declared an Islamic Republic with 'secularism' being replaced by references to Allah.
Hasina, who is also chief of the ruling Awami League, "is likely to clarify her party's stance on some crucial issues including state religion and caretaker government system", The Daily Star said on Wednesday.
Jatiya Party, a major component of the Hasina-led ruling alliance, has proposed retaining Islam as state religion, keeping the phrase "Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim" above the preamble of the constitution and imposing no ban on religion-based political parties.
The party is headed by HM Ershad, the longest-serving military ruler and head of the state, during whose tenure many Islamic symbols and motifs were added to Bangladesh's polity.
However, the left-leaning Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Ganotanri Party and National Awami Party have strongly opposed the Jatiya Party proposals.
Their stance on the issues reflected the views of eminent jurists who joined the talks with the special committee on Sunday. The jurists also opposed the existing provision allowing former chief justices to head caretaker governments.
In an editorial on Wednesday, The Daily Star urged Zia to join the talks to determine "how serious" the Prime Minister is about changes in the Constitution.