The United States on Sunday stressed the need of holding free, fair and fully participatory and credible election in Bangladesh no later than December this year as promised by the caretaker government.
The US underscored the need to observe due legal process maintaining human rights for the persons, including two former Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, imprisoned on corruption charges.
The country also expected that the political parties would play their important role in the process and holding dialogue between the government and the political parties would be a step forward to establish the proper conditions for holding elections.
The US charge d’ affaires, Geeta Pasi, said this in her separate meetings with the acting Awami League president, Zillur Rahman, and the acting chairperson of the government-backed faction of BNP, M Saifur Rahman.
‘I think that we all share common view that we want elections to be held no later than the end of December 2008,’ Geeta told reporters after the meeting with Zillur Rahman at his Gulshan residence. ‘The people of the country are waiting to see a credible and participatory polls and the government should do everything necessary in this regard.’
‘I have started meetings to exchange views on the current political situation with political parties and civil societies. I would have meeting with the other elements of the BNP and other parties in the coming days,’ she said after an hour-long meeting with Saifur at his home in the afternoon.
‘I underscore that the US government has given support to the caretaker government and its electoral roadmap as well as the caretaker government’s reform approach which includes separation of judiciary and establishing independent election commission and an so on,’ she said adding, ‘We also reviewed some of those as such the status of implementation of the electoral roadmap, developments of voter registration.’
Pasi also expected that the persons arrested with corruption charges would ensured their human rights.
‘With regard to those imprisoned on corruption charges, Ms Pasi underscored the need to observe due process. She noted that the US is closely monitoring the trials of those accused of corruption, including the two former prime ministers (Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia),’ the US embassy in Dhaka said in a statement.
The US Embassy had requested permission to send observers to the trial of Hasina, according to the statement.
The acting general secretary of Awami League, Syed Ashraful Islam, told reporters after the meeting that the two sides discussed issues including elections and roadmap of Election Commission, necessity for withdrawal of the state of emergency and lifting ban on politics.
In reply to a query, Ashraf said that the AL expressed its view for holding the parliamentary polls before the local government elections.
Ashraful also said, ‘She (Pasi) is worried about the health condition of Sheikh Hasina. She wants proper treatment for her at home or abroad. She said human rights must not be violated in any way in the trial of Sheikh Hasina.’
Saifur Rahman said the diplomat wanted to know his observation on holding of the next election. ‘I told her that the government was doing many things apart from its principal duty to hold the elections and they should concentrate on their principal duty,’ he said.
‘At the same time they should continue with their reforms agenda. Many of the political parties were voicing for reforms and there remains little difference between the Election Commission’s reforms proposal and other parties’ proposals,’ he said.
‘The local government election has to be subordinated under the national election. The elected government will decided the when the local government elections would be held,’ he said.
Saifur also demanded earliarising the election by September. ‘The electoral roll would be completed by June and I think the election can easily be held by September.’
‘The more the election would be delayed the more things would be complicated. The way the prices of essentials are increasing, it would be tough to hold the polls in future,’ he said.
The Election Commission and the government should concentrate in holding elections rather spreading out their authorities,’ he added.
Asked about the reservation of Gayeswar Roy and ASM Hannan Shah on the chief election commissioner, Saifur said, ‘The BNP is large party and somebody can say so but I have full confidence in the Chief Election Commissioner.’
Saifur was not happy at the unity move in the party. ‘Hannan Shah told me that he would sit with me and also sent a letter yesterday where nothing was new. They are still demanding cancellation of the October 29 meeting for a precondition of fresh talks.’
‘If the meeting is cancelled there remains no need to talk,’ he added.
Awami League presidium members Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Amir Hossain Amu, Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed, Matia Chowdhury and Suranjit Sengupta, and BNP leaders Hafizuddin Ahmed, Osman Faruk and Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf accompanied Zillur and Saifur respectively.