Wednesday, February 7, 2007

ATM Shamsul Huda appointed new CEC

CEC pledges major electoral reforms

Newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday said his first task would be devising an action plan for major electoral reforms in consultation with the political parties and other stakeholders. On the first day in office, he told reporters that he would make the Election Commission (EC) an institution in which every citizen can take pride and that the commission must restore public confidence in it by ensuring transparency in all its activities.

Earlier in the day, Huda, former water resources secretary, was sworn in as the CEC while Mohammad Sohul Hossain, another former bureaucrat, as election commissioner. Chief Justice Syed JR Mudassir Husain administered the oath at his Supreme Court chamber in a simple ceremony. The caretaker government on Sunday appointed the two as the CEC and election commissioner.

The new poll chief said he regards the new assignment as a big challenge. Avowing neutrality, he described himself as a man of strict discipline. He hinted at bringing about major changes in the electoral system before holding the ninth parliamentary election that was originally scheduled for January 22 but later cancelled. However he did not mention any time frame for the task ahead. The EC would soon sit in a dialogue with the political parties, civil society and others to seek their opinion about the electoral reforms. Besides, it will keep in contact with the caretaker government, as the EC cannot bring any legal reforms without help of the interim administration.

After taking oath at the Supreme Court building, he told reporters that he would introduce transparent ballot boxes and voter identity cards. Later, at his office he said the EC would not take any decision on its own regarding voter ID cards and the other reform issues. In an oblique reference to the stint of the immediate past EC, he said every stage in the electoral process from voter listing to counting the ballot papers has been rendered controversial. Talking to the reporters, the newly appointed election commissioner, Sohul Hossain, sought cooperation from all.

Controversial CEC Justice MA Aziz stepped down on January 21 while five other commissioners resigned en bloc on January 31, paving the way for reconstitution of the EC. Awami League (AL) yesterday welcomed the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and an election commissioner and hoped that the new officials will play a neutral role in holding a free and fair election. AL also urged the caretaker government as well as the Election Commission (EC) to change all politically appointed EC officials from EC Secretariat to upazila level to make it a powerful, neutral and independent body.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Acting CEC and four Commissioners resigns

The acting chief election commissioner (CEC) and four other commissioners finally resigned following the footstep of Justice MA Aziz, and clearing the way for reconstitution of the Election Commission (EC, which tops the interim government’s agenda. Former additional secretary to cabinet division, M Anisuzzaman Khan, is likely to be appointed as the new CEC while a former brigadier general and a former district judge are likely to be appointed as election commissioners.

Their resignation came 10 days after Justice MA Aziz resigned from the post of chief election commissioner without giving any reason. A few of the resigning election commissioners did not agree to admit their failure as election commissioners. They also refused to comment on their resignation, saying Bangabhaban will announce the EC overhaul in a statement. A Bangabhaban press release on Wednesday night confirmed that the president accepted the resignation letters of five commissioners. None of the resigning commissioners disclosed anything about the content of their discussion with the president at Bangabhaban.

The caretaker government will now appoint a new CEC and two election commissioners to recast the EC, which will initiate steps including preparation of a voter list for holding the ninth parliamentary election. The interim government will immediately appoint three election commissioners, including a CEC, to form a new Election Commission, adding that the names of the new commissioners have been finalised and that the new Election Commission will take steps to bring changes to the electoral laws.

President Iajuddin Ahmed had appointed all the election commissioners: Justice MA Aziz as CEC on May 23, 2005, Zakaria and Mahfuz on January 16, 2006, and Mansur on August 31 last year--all on advice of the then BNP-led government. He then suddenly appointed Modabbir and Saiful on November 27 last year, keeping in dark and annoying the then council of advisers.
With six election commissioners, the Aziz-led EC became the largest one ever in the history of Bangladesh, but it completely failed to build people's confidence in it for holding a free and fair election. It failed to conduct the ninth parliamentary elections scheduled for January 22 and formally cancelled the election in line with a decision of the present caretaker government.

The council of advisers to the immediate past caretaker government headed by President Iajuddin Ahmed faced tremendous difficulties in reconstituting the EC as neither Aziz nor SM Zakaria agreed to resign. The BNP-led four-party alliance was also rigid against the resignation of the two commissioners appointed by the BNP government. Law Adviser Mainul Hosein yesterday said the resignation of the five commissioners will end all problems the EC recast has been facing.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Political and Trade Union activities banned by Government under the Emergency Powers Ordinance 2007

The Government has banned political and trade union activities and restricted provocative news, including talk show, in print and electronic media under the Emergency Powers Rules 2007. The ban has been made effective from January 12, 2007 through a gazette notification on the Emergency Powers Rules 2007 under the Emergency Powers Ordinance 2007. The gazette notification was made public last night.

The government has restricted processions, demonstrations, hartals, strikes and lockouts across the country to ensure security of the state and people, and maintain discipline in public life and has also banned student-teacher politics and politics by government employees and professional bodies. In case of violation of the restrictions, the offenders will have to suffer a maximum of five years or a minimum of two years rigorous imprisonment along with fines. But rallies, processions and functions relating to religious, social and state affairs are exempted from the restrictions.

Under the notification, the government can ban any meeting, procession, siege, demonstration, speech, statement, any harmful news or information in the interest of government, state or public security and peace. The government can also restrict any publication or transmission of any anti-government news, editorial, post editorial, article, feature, cartoon, talk show or discussion in print or electronic media and any mass media, including the internet. Wall writing has also been banned as long as the state of emergency will remain in force. The government will be able to proscribe any newspaper, book, document, printing press or equipment of electronic media if any news or information is published or propagated violating the government order or restrictions.

The restriction has also been put on any provocative remarks or activities against the government and its programmes, drawing, cartoon or the effigy of an individual with ulterior political motive. The government will have the right to ask any individual to submit information or material to a person or authority designated by the rules for examining those. If any individual does not submit the information or the material or intentionally supply false and incorrect ones, the individual will have to suffer a maximum of five years or a minimum of two years' RI and fines. Those who will try to violate the rules and assist or provoke to violate the rules of the emergency will be considered as the violator.

If any violator of the rules is identified as statutory organisation or farm, director, owner, partner, manager, secretary or any other officer or agent will be considered as the violator unless he or she can prove that they have tried enough to refrain from violating the rules. Whatever the existing laws and rules contain, all offences under the emergency rules will be justified by speedy trial court, speedy trial tribunal, metropolitan magistrate and first class magistrate. The offences under this rule will be considered as cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.

If anyone resents any verdict of the courts, he or she can appeal to the proper court against the verdict within 30 days from the date of handing down the particular verdict. But the time to be spent to get the certified copy will be excluded from the 30-day period. On post, radio, telegram, telex, fax and telephone services, the rules of emergency said the government can empower officers and authorities to halt, delay any disbursement of messages or news.

In case of any serious offence, the government will have the right to transfer an under trial case at any stage to a speedy trial tribunal. But the trial must be held as per the provisions of the Speedy Trial Tribunal Act 2002. Investigation, trial and other related activities on the offences that cause law and order situation will be under the speedy trial court only. Any designated police official or any member of the law enforcement agencies will be able to enforce or take any necessary steps to implement any order under the emergency rules. Any individual can be brought to preventive detention under the Special Powers Act 1974 if deemed that the individual might create an offence under the emergency rules.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

CA asks Govt.officials to discharge duties neutrally



Chief Adviser (CA) to the Caretaker Government, Fakhruddin Ahmed in his first meeting with secretaries to the ministries yesterday asked the secretaries to be neutral and honest in their duties and support him in bringing back the people trust in bureaucrats. He also warned them of severe punitive measures if they fail to remain impartial.

In the meeting, pointing out that tax paid by the citizens pay for government officials' wages and also runs the government, Fakhruddin stressed that "Government officials have to remember that no political party is their master. They are the servants of the people's republic" and all officials have to ensure that the government services are delivered to the people's doorsteps. He assured that whatever changes are required to ensure impartiality in the administration, will be brought into existence. Fakhruddin said that "The responsibility of running the country lies with a government elected by the people, and he requested the officials to assist the council of advisers in fulfilling the prerequisites for holding an election, namely the people's trust in the administration.

Addressing the secretaries he said that the caretaker government will do all it can to revitalise all sectors of the economy. Emphasising the need for strengthening the power sector, the CA said all steps should be taken immediately to ensure power supply to factories, offices and households. Commenting on the improved law and order situation over the past week, Fakhruddin said the caretaker government is resolute in making it sustainable to ensure public security.

The CA praised small farmers for sustaining the country, and said they have been let down by the lack of assistance from the government, especially regarding supply of fertilisers. He also said relationships with friendly countries should be strengthened and steps should be taken to brighten Bangladesh's image abroad. The CA urged the secretaries to be more proactive in ensuring implementation of ongoing development projects and said that "any delay or failure in implementing projects will not be tolerated". Fakhruddins's meeting with the secretaries was held at Bangladesh Secretariat and longed for about two hours, where he later spent hours in his own office.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

CA pledges to hold Elections at the earliest

EC to be reconstituted, flawless electoral roll to be prepared

Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed pledged to transfer power to an elected government at the earliest through holding a free, fair and credible general election after reconstituting the Election Commission (EC) and preparing a flawless electoral roll in his maiden address to the nation over radio and television. Fakhruddin, who assumed office on January 12 to head a reconstituted caretaker government, said the main task of his government is to hold a free, fair, peaceful and neutral election with participation of all parties in accordance with the constitution and people's aspiration.

Regarding demands for voter ID cards and transparent ballot boxes, he said necessary steps would be taken in this respect after examining the matters. He added that appropriate steps would be taken to ensure the statement of assets and sources of income of intending election candidates and prove the authenticity of their statements.Fakhruddin however stopped short of mentioning any timeframe for the parliamentary elections --earlier set for January 22.

Although the much-awaited address to the nation delivered by the chief adviser to the interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, dwelt repeatedly on what he termed as the principal responsibility of the military-backed administration — to deliver a free, fair and participatory election ‘at the earliest’ — the ambitious to-do list that was proposed alongside left little doubt that ‘the earliest’ would come later rather than sooner

Major parties' reaction to CA's Address


BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan urged the interim government to hold the election at the 'earliest possible time'. Giving the four-party's formal reaction to the chief adviser's (CA) speech to the nation, he thanked the CA for promising to hold an election as soon as possible and said people expected a specific timeframe for holding the election as the only task of the caretaker government is to assist the Election Commission and it is the elected government's responsibility to do the long-term things like preparation of voter ID cards.

The Awami League (AL)-led 14-party alliance expressed the hope that the caretaker government (CG) headed by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed will take measurers to hold a free, fair and credible general election as early as possible by reconstituting the Election Commission (EC). Giving the alliance's formal reaction to the chief adviser's (CA) first address to the nation Sunday night, the AL general secretary said the people hope that the new CG will hand over power to an elected government following a fair and credible election and this will add a new dimension to democracy in the country. The party also demanded the arrest of corrupt people, criminals and their godfathers, illegal arms and black money holders to create a congenial atmosphere for a free and fair poll and build people's confidence in the polls process.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Chief Election Commissioner M. A. Aziz resigns

Poll set for today officially cancelled

Justice MA Aziz resigned from the post of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) yesterday citing a major political alliance's lack of confidence in him and to avert further political unrest in the country. Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) Secretariat issued a notification yesterday officially cancelling holding of the ninth parliamentary election today.

Aziz's departure ends his highly controversial 21-month stint in the office, during which he was forced to go on a leave of absence on November 22 after repeated demands for his resignation from Awami League (AL)-led alliance for failing to prepare a correct and updated voter list. His resignation follows the newly appointed caretaker government's announcement that reconstituting the problem-ridden EC is its top priority so that it can proceed with other electoral reforms, namely updating the voter list, and institutionalising the system of voter ID cards and transparent ballot boxes.

Law Adviser Mainul Hosein told on Saturday that the caretaker government decided to appoint a new CEC within a couple of days and that the new CEC will be selected from the bureaucracy. Aziz personally delivered his letter of resignation to President Iajuddin Ahmed at Bangabhaban yesterday afternoon, which the president accepted. In a statement released to the media on his behalf by his personal assistant, he said that if he continue in the post of CEC this may give certain political parties the opportunity to create once again new obstacles in the democratic process of holding national elections and would be seriously prejudicial to the interest of the country."

The biggest allegations against Aziz were that he failed to prepare a correct voter list and violated a High Court directive by creating a fresh voter list, which cost the taxpayer at least Tk 60 crore. Aziz assumed the office of CEC on May 23, 2005, during BNP-led alliance government's regime, and got mired in controversy by preparing a fresh voter list ignoring the High Court directive. Along with major political parties, election experts, different professional organisations and civil society personalities also demanded reconstitution of the EC for holding a free and fair election. Foreign diplomats also started speaking against the Aziz-led EC saying the people had lost confidence in the commission. But, President Iajuddin opted not to reconstitute the EC and instead he sent two commissioners on leave and appointed two new, even more controversial, commissioners compounding an already complex crisis.

EC SCRAPS TODAY'S POLL


An EC Secretariat notification released yesterday under section 21 of the General Clauses Act 1897, cancelled all its previous notifications in relation to the election that was scheduled for today.It said the election will not take place as the president believed it could not take place on schedule, and added, "In light of internal disturbances that might endanger the economic life the president promulgated a state of emergency under Article 141A(1) of the constitution."The notification further said all activities and measures taken under proscribed notifications will be considered legally null and void.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Leaders,activists skip party offices following state of emergency

The leaders and activists of most major political parties hardly visit the offices to avoid being arrested after the declaration of the state of emergency on January 11.


The central office of the BNP at Naya Paltan and of the Awami Leage on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka.

The emergency has suspended the daily activities of the political parties, prompting them to hold a series of discussions indoors to assess their gains and losses after the happening. Some mid-level leaders and activists gather near the party’s central offices, but they seldom go inside. Several dozen grassroots activists gathered in front of the Awami League central office on Bangabandhu Avenue in the afternoon on Thursday, but they did not enter the office. Almost all the rooms were vacant. Only a few on the paid staff were inside.

The leaders and activists have almost stopped visiting the Dhanmondi office of the Awami League president, Sheikh Hasina, and her residence, Sudha Sadan. Only a few senior leaders, who are asked to meet the party chief, go to Sudha Sadan. No grassroots leaders and activists had visited the Dhanmondi office for three days.

The BNP’s central office at Naya Paltan also had a thin attendance at about noon on Wednesday. Only some on the paid staffs were present. Of the central leaders, the party’s joint secretary general Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, assistant office secretary Syed Emran Saleh Prince, and assistant publicity secretary Ahmed Musa now attend the office almost every evening. The BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, is running the party activities from her office at Banani. Although the presence of grassroots leaders was thin in front of the office at Banani, mid-level BNP leaders and former lawmakers are frequently visiting Khaleda and joint secretary general Tarique Rahman almost every evening.

The office of the Liberal Democratic Party at Baridhara has remained almost vacant after the declaration of the emergency.Only a single room of the office was open in the evening on Wednesday to liaise with the press. No central leader had gone to the office for a week. The party’s central office on the Topkhana road also remains vacant most of the time. No leader and activist visited the place in the past week.

The case is a bit different with the central office of the Jamaat-e-Islami at Moghbazar and the offices of the left-leaning political parties in the Purana Paltan areas.Most central leaders and a large number of activists are visiting the offices of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Workers Party, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal and the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction led by Hasanul Haq Inu. The security forces and law enforces, meanwhile, arrested about 9,000 persons, most of them having links with major political parties, after January 11.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Elections unlikely before 6 months

Interim govt firm on preparing national identity or voter card first

The next parliamentary elections may delay for at least six months as the interim government will take the time to prepare a correct voter list. The government is considering introducing either national identity cards or voters' identity cards before going for the polls and such tasks need minimum six months to complete. Adviser Tapan Chowdhury told the press yesterday,the government will form a committee for preparing a guideline to determine which would be viable--preparing national identity cards or voters' identity cards--considering time and money the task will require. He also said some people have opined that it is possible to prepare the voter ID cards within six months.


Both the major political alliances led by Awami League and BNP have meanwhile asked the caretaker government to hold the elections within shortest possible time. But, like the political parties, people are in the dark about the next parliamentary elections as the present caretaker government, formed following declaration of a state of emergency, is yet to clear the matter.

Sources said the caretaker government in its first meeting has set its priority tasks that include correcting the voter list, neutralising the administration and the Election Commission (EC), and maintaining law and order. The interim government is planning to go for a recast in the civil administration and reconstitution of the EC to neutralise the field before polls.

Sources said Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed may address the nation next week outlining his government's plan on holding the elections and the steps it is going to take. Adviser Geeteara Safiya Choudhury told reporters, "It is difficult at this moment to speculate when the election will be held," and that the government will give emphasis to people's expectations for a free and fair poll. When asked about the political parties' demand for holding the election soon, she said, "We will do everything that a free, fair and peaceful election requires and the government will sit with the political parties after finalising the proposal.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ershad can now contest for Election

Boat Purchase Case-Ershad relieved of serving term for conviction in Japanese boat scam

Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad was freed yesterday from serving out the sentence given by the High Court (HC) on December 14 last year in a Japanese boat purchase case. He can now contest the polls as five years have already passed since his serving the sentence.The Public Prosecutor (PP) expressed concern over the trial court order yesterday while the defence was satisfied with it.

Ershad was found guilty of misappropriating Tk 33 crore in a shady deal for purchasing 520 Japanese boats and 10 water purifying machines for relief operation in 1989. On July 6, 1995, Judge Jinnat Ara of the trial court sentenced Ershad to three years' imprisonment. The court also fined him Tk 10,000 and in default, he was to be in jail for four more months.The same year, Ershad filed an appeal with the HC against the lower court verdict. Later, Justice Faisal Mahmud Faizee of the single-member HC bench rejected his appeal and handed down two years' imprisonment to the former president. Faizee also asked Ershad to surrender before the trial court without specifying any time or date. According to the prosecution, Ershad was shown arrested in the case on May 13, 1992 after submission of the probe report the same day. He was granted bail on August 19, 1996 and released from jail on January 9, 1997.

In yesterday's order, Judge Amirul said Ershad has 'already served out his sentence in full' and he may remain 'as it is till for further order'. Ershad, his party leaders and lawyers appeared before the court at 10:15am, and the court started the hearing at 11:30am. Additional police force and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) were deployed on and outside the court premises to avoid any untoward incident.

Mentioning a provision of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), defence counsel lawyer, Rokanuddin told the court that if the total period of one's custody is longer than the period of imprisonment, he or she shall be deemed to have served out the sentence of imprisonment. So, Ershad need not be in custody to serve out the sentence, as he has been in custody for over three years.


After an hour-long hearing of the both sides, the judge took an hour to prepare his order and passed it at 1:30pm in a packed courtroom. Section 35(A) of the CrPC says: Where a person is in custody at the time of conviction and the offence for which he is convicted is not punishable with death or in prison for life, the court may, in passing the sentence of imprisonment, take into consideration the continuous period of his custody immediately preceding his conviction.The court in its order mentioned that Section 35 (A) is applicable in this case.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Five more advisors to CG appointed; three sworn in

President Iajuddin Ahmed yesterday appointed five more advisers, completing the reconstitution of the council of advisers to the caretaker government headed by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed. Three of the newly appointed advisers--former secretary Ayub Quadri, former inspector general of police Anwarul Iqbal and physician Maj Gen (retd) Matiur Rahman-- They sworn in yesterday, five days after the president administered the oath of office to the chief adviser on January 12. The president administered the oath of office to the three advisers at the Bangabhaban at 7:10pm.

He will administer the oath of office to two other advisers--Dr Iftekar Ahmed Chowhdury, a career diplomat and currently Bangladesh ambassador to the United Nations, and Fayez Khan, an IT specialist and consultant, later. They could not be sworn in yesterday as they were abroad. Iftekar Ahmed Chowhdury is a brother-in-law of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed. The chief adviser and other advisers, who were appointed on January 13, were present at the oath-taking ceremony.


The interim government led by Dr Fakhruddin has primarily envisaged several agendas for holding credible elections: Correcting the voter list, introducing voter-identity cards and transparent ballot box in the polls. The caretaker government and the Election Commission might also open dialogue with major political parties before setting the ball rolling once again for the election.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Will introduce voters’ ID card, transparent ballot box in the coming election -CG

The interim cabinet at its maiden meeting on Sunday decided to extend all- out assistance to the Election Commission in holding the next general election in a free and fair atmosphere, after preparing a correct voters’ roll, introduction of voters’ identity card and transparent ballot boxes. The meeting, chaired by the chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, also reviewed law and order and the state of economy and asked the authorities concerned to take appropriate steps to this effect. Held at the chief adviser’s office, the meeting, attended by all the five advisers, in principle decided to introduce voters’ identity cards and transparent ballot boxes and discussed the ways and means for them.

The council also directed the authorities concerned to take all possible measures so that fundamental rights were protected when regulations were promulgated following the declaration of the state of emergency. The election commissioner in-charge, Mahfuzur Rahman, and the secretary to the EC, Abdur Rashid Sarker, also attended the meeting. The meeting, however, did not spell out clearly a fresh timing for the general elections, and the tenure of the new interim administration, according to sources. It is expected that the EC will make a decision on the election within a couple of days. After the meeting, adviser MA Matin told reporters that the January 22 elections would be postponed through a circular to be issued later on. The meeting decided to induct five more advisers in the council within a couple of days. The meeting reviewed the law and order and decided to take necessary measures to restore people’s confidence.


The council issued directives to the authorities of the law enforcing agencies so that innocent people were not harassed during their operations. Earlier, chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed distributed the responsibilities to his five advisers. The ministries/divisions not allocated yet would remain under the chief adviser until further order, according to a gazette notification issued by the cabinet secretary on Sunday. Advisers Mainul Hosein, AB Mirza Azizul Islam, MA Matin, Tapan Chowdhury and Geetiara Safiya Chowdhury attended the meeting. Cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder along with other secretaries to the ministries concerned were also present among others.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Five advisors to CG sworn in


President Iajuddin Ahmed yesterday appointed five advisers to the reconstituted non-party caretaker government (CG).The advisers are Barrister Mainul Hosein, Major Gen (retd) MA Matin, Geeti Ara Safiya Chowdhury, Dr Mirza Azizul Islam and Tapan Chowdhury. The president administered the oath of the advisers at a ceremony at the Bangabhaban The first meeting of the seemingly half-reconstituted council of advisers will be held today at 11:30am at the Chief Adviser’s office at Tejgaon.

President Iajuddin Ahmed stepped down from the chief adviser's post on January 11 and all his advisers resigned, in a changed political situation following the promulgation of a state of emergency in the country amid political squabbles over polls. President Iajuddin Ahmed took over the charge of CA to the caretaker government as the country's two major political alliances had failed to reach a consensus on a candidate for the post.

Fakhruddin Joins Office

Newly appointed Chief Adviser to the Caretaker Government Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed joined office yesterday, a day after he took oath as the chief adviser. He was welcomed at his office by the senior officials of the office as he arrived there around 12:55pm. Principal Secretary to the CA Ali Imam Majumder, Secretary in-charge Kazi M Aminul Islam, Director General of Special Security Forces (SSF) Major Gen Syed Fatmy Ahmed Roomy and Military Secretary to the CA Brigadier Gen ANM Wazed Thakur received the chief adviser. The chief adviser later placed wreaths at the National Mausoleum in Savar. He stood there in solemn silence for some time to pay homage to the martyrs of the War of Liberation.

A smart contingent comprised of army, navy and air force presented guard of honour. Chiefs of three services and general officer commanding (GOC) of the Savar Cantonment received the chief adviser on the premises of the National Mausoleum on his arrival. Later, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed signed in the visitor's book.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fakhruddin takes over as new Chief Advisor

Advisors to be appointed soon; 4-party absent at oath-taking

Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former governor of the Bangladesh Bank, assumed the office of chief adviser (CA) to the non-party caretaker government yesterday based on a consensus between the two major political alliances, beginning the reconstitution of the interim government. President Iajuddin Ahmed, administered the oath of his successor at a ceremony in Bangabhaban Darbar Hall yesterday. With Dr Fakhruddin's assumption of the office of CA, resignation of Justice Fazlul Haque, who had been acting as the CA following the resignation of Iajuddin, became effective.

The president will now appoint ten advisers in a day or two consulting with the newly appointed CA to complete the reconstitution of the council of advisers to the caretaker government that will initiate a fresh move for holding the next parliamentary election. The Election Commission (EC) yesterday unofficially suspended all activities regarding holding the parliamentary election on January 22. Interestingly, BNP-led four-party alliance which had welcomed Iajuddin's assumption of the office of CA and who had attended his oath taking ceremony on October 29 in Bangabhaban, boycotted yesterday's ceremony of oath taking by the new CA. But, Awami League (AL)-led 14-party coalition and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that had boycotted the oath taking ceremony of Iajuddin as the CA, protesting his 'unconstitutional takeover of the post', attended yesterday's function in Bangabhaban.

Two former chief advisers to caretaker governments Justice Habibur Rahman and Justice Latifur Rahman, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Chief Justice Syed JR Mudassir Husain, Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Mahfuzur Rahman, secretaries of different ministries, chiefs of three services of the armed forces, foreign diplomats and other dignitaries also attended the ceremony yesterday evening. Excepting the state run media and a private news agency, journalists were not allowed in Bangabhaban to cover the ceremony. Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder conducted the oath taking ceremony that lasted ten minutes. Before administering the oath, the president appointed Dr Fakhruddin as the new CA in accordance with the Article 58 (C) of the constitution. Before appointing the new CA, negotiations took place between the two major political alliances to reach a consensus on Dr Fakhruddin.

Profile of new CA

Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed was born in Munshiganj. He obtained the first position in his class (first class first) in both BA (Hons) and MA from the Department of Economics in Dhaka University in 1960 and 1961. He received another master's degree in Development Economics from Williams College, USA and the Doctorate Degree in Economics from Princeton University.

He started his career as a lecturer of Economics in Dhaka University. Later, he joined the civil service of Pakistan. He served the government until 1978 when he joined the World Bank where he served until 2001. He joined as the governor of Bangladesh Bank in 2001 and his contract expired on April 30, 2005.He has been the managing director of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), country's apex micro-finance organisation, since June 1, 2005.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chief Advisor Iajudddin Ahmed resigns ;state of emergency declared in Bangladesh

Justice Fazlul Haque took charge as acting chief advisor;election postponed; curfew imposed from 11pm-5am.

President Iajuddin Ahmed last night resigned from the post of chief adviser to the caretaker government, declaring a state of emergency in the country--amid growing political crisis over election. Nine advisers to the caretaker government also resigned from their posts and the senior most among the advisers Justice Fazlul Haque, took the charge as acting chief adviser. The parliamentary election scheduled for the January 22 has also been postponed.

Besides suspending all fundamental rights as described in the constitution, the authorities imposed a six-hour curfew--from 11:00pm to 5:00am--in all metropolitan cities and district headquarters with immediate effect from last night until further orders. The declaration of the state of emergency came after daylong hectic negotiations yesterday among the political parties, diplomats and the caretaker government advisers to resolve the growing political crisis following Iajuddin's assumption of the office of chief adviser on October 29 last year.

Prior to declaring the emergency, the president held a meeting with the chiefs of three services at Bangabhaban. The armed forces had been deployed across the country on Wednesday for election duties. The home ministry started instructing the deputy commissioners, metropolitan polices and other officials concerned to enforce the state of emergency across the country. Railway and bus stations were crowded yesterday with the public rushing to their homes, following the president's declaration of state of emergency and the 11:00pm-5:00am curfew.

The issuance of the proclamation automatically suspended the operation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by articles 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 42 of the constitution. These articles deal with the freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech, freedom of professions or occupation, and rights to property. No one will be allowed to file any case with the court challenging the validity of the emergency and suspension of the fundamental rights. Referring to the constitutional provision for declaring the state of emergency, the president in the proclamation said a grave emergency exists in the country in which the security or economic life of Bangladesh is threatened.

The president declared the state of emergency in the wake of the Awami League-led grand alliance's boycott of the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 22 and its series of siege and hartal programmes to resist the polls. Although the president in the proclamation did not specify the timeframe for the enforcement of the emergency, it shall cease to operate at the expiry of 120 days unless it is approved by a resolution of parliament before the expiry. The state of emergency was last declared on November 27, 1990 during the regime of autocratic military ruler HM Ershad and it was in effect until December 6, the day Ershad resigned from presidency following a mass upsurge.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Al - led Grand alliance annnounces fresh agitation programmes

Indefinite siege of Bangabhaban from Jan 14, blockade on Jan 14-15,17-18, hartal on Jan 21-22 if polls not cancelled


A grand rally was held at Paltan Maidan in the capital today by the Awami League (AL)-led Grand alliance to announce its next course of agitation programmes to press home its demands for a free and fair election and the resignation of President Iajuddin Ahmed from the post of chief adviser to the caretaker government (CG). AL President Sheikh Hasina is expected to announce fresh agitation programmes including non-stop blockade and hartals with an aim to resist the holding of January 22 elections which the grand alliance has boycotted.

The agitation programmes might include laying siege to the Election Commission (EC) and the Bangabhaban on January 14 and 15, 72-hour non-stop blockade from January 16 and non-stop countrywide hartal from January 20 to the polling day.

Jatiya Party Chairman
HM Ershad, Liberal Democratic Party President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, Workers' Party President Rashed Khan Menon, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haque Inu and Zaker Party Chairman Mostafa Amir Faisal will address the rally. The grand alliance will also stage countrywide demonstrations tomorrow to protest the police atrocities on its workers and leaders including Tofail Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Nurul Islam and Dilip Barua and the wholesale arrest by the law enforcers ahead and during the 72-hour blockade. The alliance held a meeting yesterday at AL's Dhanmondi office with AL Presidium Member Amir Hossain Amu in the chair to review the latest political developments. Following the meeting AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil told journalists that they would not allow the holding of any polls under Iajuddin Ahmed and strongly criticised the law enforcers' attack on their leaders and activists during yesterday's blockade. He said the law enforcers are suppressing the grand alliance leaders and workers in their desperate attempt to bring back the conspirators (BNP-Jamaat) back to power.

AL Joint General Secretary Obaidul Quader at another press briefing clarified the BNP's statement over AL chief's April 12, 2001 parliamentary speech on holding the elections within the
90-day time limit. He said the situation of 2001 elections and the situation of 2007 are not the same, there is no error-free voter list, the CG, EC and the administration are not neutral to hold a free and fair election.

Police roughshod over blockaders during Bangabhaban siege

Maul senior grand alliance leaders unprovoked; pickets retaliate by throwing hand bombs; country remains paralysed

Five top leaders of the Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance were injured as police assaulted them while using brute force to disperse alliance activists and leaders from around the Bangabhaban during a siege of it yesterday that triggered violent clashes between the law enforcers and the demonstrators. Policemen in riot gear brutally assaulted the leaders at Noor Hossain Square and fired teargas shells inside the AL central office on Bangabandhu Avenue during the siege that was also marked by police-demonstrators pitched battles in Fakirerpool and Joykali temple area. The leaders -- Tofail Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Nurul Islam, Dilip Barua and Haji Mohammad Selim -- fell to the ground due to the police beating without any let up in two to three minutes. A ferocious attack by AL activists using brickbats and homemade bombs forced the police to retreat at least 50 metres and the activists rescued the injured leaders.

Besides, at least 50 demonstrators and policemen were wounded in clashes during the siege of the president's office on the last day of the alliance's three-day countrywide blockade demanding resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed from the post of chief adviser and announcement of a new schedule for the general election after 'proper updating' of the voter list. The Bangabhaban was cordoned off by a heavy security net comprising several thousand police, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) personnel. Five truckloads of army also patrolled around it frequently as the demonstrators chanted slogans like 'army-janata bhai bhai, Iajuddiner fanshi chai'. Police and BDR stood in several lines on the roads leading to the Bangabhaban from Dainik Bangla intersection, and from Paltan to Bangabandhu Avenue. Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) had already imposed a ban on squatting around the Bangabhaban to prevent a siege of it.

This situation followed arrest of one Awami Jubo Mohila League activist from a procession that attempted to stage a sit-in beside police barricades near Noor Hossain Square. Alliance activists then hurled dozens of handmade bombs and volleys of brickbats from both ends of Bangabandhu Avenue at riot police. Police then launched an all out attack on the activists forcing them into the AL office and to flee through Golap Shah Mazar area. Police also fired a large number of tear gas shells, at least two of those into the AL office. AL activists retaliated by pelting brickbats and handmade bombs from the roofs of adjoining buildings. A section of alliance activists at the rear of the procession started hurling brickbats and homemade bombs, prompting police to go for indiscriminate beating of anyone before them.

The senior leaders, hoping they would be spared, stood still. But police became more aggressive as alliance activists continued to hurl brickbats. Police then swooped on the leaders and bashed them with batons even after they had fallen to the ground. Following the police clubbing, several hundred demonstrators darted out to the main road and different alleyways in Fakirerpool and started raining brickbats on the law enforcers. Police fired more than 100 teargas shells and rubber bullets on the demonstrators. At least 20 people including some policemen were wounded as the fighting continued till 2:45pm. Police picked up at least 30 leaders and activists from the spot.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Army given power to arrest anyone without warrant

The Election Commission (EC) in an unprecedented move yesterday agreed to allow the armed forces to arrest anyone from any place without a warrant during their engagement in election duties. The Armed Forces Division in a proposal earlier sought the power for the army, navy and the air force for seven days including the polling day to ensure a peaceful atmosphere and security of voters in light of the existing law and order situation.

Responding to the proposal, the EC finally asked the home ministry yesterday to issue a notification to allow the armed forces to have the authority as they had desired in addition to the power they already have to arrest any person within a radius of four hundred yards of a polling station on the polling day. The EC in its letter to the home ministry however did not specify the time limit for allowing the armed forces to exercise the new power. The home ministry will decide for how many days the armed forces will be allowed to exercise the power.

But sources in the EC said the armed forces will enjoy the power for 20 days from January 10, the day of their deployment across the country on election duties. President and Chief Adviser Iajuddin Ahmed yesterday directed the armed forces to carry out their assigned duties for holding the January 22 parliamentary election in a fair manner. The president gave the instruction when Army Chief Lt Gen Moeen U Ahmed called on him in Bangabhaban in the afternoon. Being legally empowered, the army, navy and the air force will be able to take actions against any person if the person is guilty of unduly influencing or compelling any other person to vote or to refrain from voting, directly or indirectly, by himself or herself or by any other person on his or her behalf. The home ministry will now issue fresh instructions amending the previous circular issued by it on January 3.

According to the existing electoral laws, a member of any law enforcement agency including the army, navy and the air force shall have the power to arrest any person without a warrant for maintenance of peace, law and order in a polling station or within a radius of four hundred yards of a polling station on the polling day. The power given to the armed forces, for the first time through a controversial ordinance in 2001, also allows them to take actions against any activity that goes against the electoral code of conduct. AFD now has an additional authority of exercising this power all over the constituencies, which will have the polls on January 22. According to the election laws, the armed forces can also themselves remove or issue orders to remove multi-coloured posters or portraits of candidates, campaign gates and arches, barricades, banners, microphones, loudspeakers, and decorative campaign illuminations, and can paint over graffiti on walls.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Blockaders - Cops clashes marked first day of Blockade

Capital remains cut off, trains halted, operation in ports suspended


The first day of blockade witnessed Blockaders clash with law enforcers. More than 200 persons were injured as blockaders fought pitched battles with law enforcers in the capital and elsewhere yesterday of the three-day countrywide blockade called by Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance.The blockade cut off the capital from the rest of the country. Military vehicles mounted with automatic weapons patrolled the streets of the capital yesterday. The army and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) members were seen guarding different strategic points in the city. Hundreds of rubber bullets, tear gas shells fired in Adabor in capital. Several hundred army personnel were drawn together in Adabor after the area witnessed the worst clash of the day between grand alliance activists and police leaving around 50 injured.

Only the vehicles carrying Hajj pilgrims and journalists, ambulances, all exams and pharmacies were exempted from the 72-hour blockade. Besides, clashes and chases took place between the blockaders and police at Maghbazar, Russel Square, Matshya Bhaban crossing, Zero point, Tanti Bazar, Lalbagh, and Badda. Police arrested 106 activists of the grand alliance in the city. Around 100 leaders of both AL-led grand alliance and BNP-led four-party alliance were injured in sporadic clashes in different places outside the capital as well. Inter-district road communications were snapped as no inter-district bus operated. Rail communications were also halted at various stations in Dhaka, Pakshi, Lalmonirhat, and Daulatpur.

Activities at the country's premier seaport were also hampered due to the blockade. Loading and unloading took place partially but delivery of cargoes remained suspended.

ADABOR


Around 50 people including policemen and journalists were injured during a four-hour clash that turned Baitul Aman Housing Society, PC Culture and Adabor areas in the capital into a big battle filed. The fighting erupted after police had charged batons and dispersed several hundred AL leaders and activists when they gathered in front of the house of a local AL leader and ward commissioner Abul Hashem Hashu on Road No 10 in Baitul Aman Housing Society around 10:00am. Police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets at the demonstrators several hundred times. They also fired from shotguns adding fuel to the anger of the demonstrators. Police arrested 28 people from the spot during the clashes.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

10 day non-stop blockade if demands not met -Sheikh Hasina

Awami League President Sheikh Hasina yesterday said if the grand alliance's demand for fair election is not fulfilled by January 8, a non-stop siege for 10 days will be enforced to resist "vote thieves." Addressing a meeting of Jatiya Sramik League at the AL's Dhanmondi office, she urged the police, Rab and BDR to resist the "vote thieves". Hasina, said the blueprint for rigging election is in place and to participate in such election means acceptance of a rigged election. She cautioned the chief adviser of bad consequences of arresting and torturing her party leaders and workers. Earlier, Hasina while exchanging views with the members of Awami Swechchhasebak League asked the civil administration, army and law enforcers not to cooperate with those who intend to rig the election.

When asked about Khaleda Zia's persistent demand for election within 90 days, Hasina said although the BNP chairperson refers to 90 days, she keeps mum about Articles 121 and 122 of the constitution that mentions a flawless electoral roll. Reminding the consequences of the election on February 15 in 1996, she said a one-party election will not be allowed. She urged the people to boycott the January 22 election. Awami League leaders Motia Chowdhury and Obaidul Quader and Swechchhasebak League General Secretary Pankaj Debnath were present in the meeting presided over by Bahauddin Nasim, president of Swechchhasebak League.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Khaleda urges public to ignore election boycott

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday said the election must be held on January 22 as per the election commission schedule regardless of who participates in it or not. She also urged all to ignore the polls boycott announcement of the grand alliance and complete the election process to avoid any constitutional crisis. While addressing public meetings and roadside rallies during her daylong election campaign in Gazipur and Mymensingh, the BNP chief asked all to exercise their citizens' rights by participating in the polls.

She addressed rallies on Sreepur Pilot High School ground seeking votes for BNP candidate Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui, Bhaluka Degree College ground for BNP nominee Fakhruddin Bachchu, Kazi Nazrul Islam College ground in Trishal for Dr Mahbubur Rahman Liton and Circuit House ground at Mymensingh for Delwar Hossain Khan. Thousands gathered at the rallies in processions chanting slogans. Many turned up with sheaves of paddy, portraits of Begum Zia and late president Ziaur Rahman and colourful banners on the very first day of Khaleda Zia's election campaign.

Begum Zia said "Awami League (AL) decided to stay away from the polls as their corrupt accomplices have been disqualified for the election," urging the people to participate in the election to foil all conspiracies against the country. She added that they are boycotting the election because they know they could not win." Khaleda criticised the AL-led grand alliance's blockade programme on January 7-8 and alleged that they (AL) are engaged in ruining the economy of the country and turning it into a satellite state of another country.

Meanwhile President and Chief Adviser (CA) Iajuddin Ahmed did not convene any meeting of the council of advisers to the caretaker government in the last two days although the advisers were waiting to sit together to find ways to resolve the political crisis centring the upcoming parliamentary election. Iajuddin however continued his efforts to hold the election set for January 22, instead of initiating any move to ensure participation of all political parties in the polls by resolving the crisis.


Since the alliance's announcement, the advisers have been discussing among themselves possible ways to overcome the crisis. But they cannot initiate any move in this regard before a meeting of the council is held, sources pointed out. The advisers are also discussing whether it is possible to seek opinion of the Supreme Court (SC) on holding the election by extending the 90-day time limit since dissolution of the immediate past parliament. But they were not sure if they could take a fresh initiative to resolve the crisis as the president seemed indifferent to this, sources said.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Grand alliance boycotts January 22 Elections

Awami League (AL)-led grand electoral alliance yesterday announced it will boycott and resist the parliamentary election set for January 22, alleging that all the electoral preparations by the government so far have been for 'stage-managing the next election in favour of BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance'. In defence of its latest decision, AL President Sheikh Hasina at a crowded news briefing alleged that an atmosphere conducive to a fair election has yet to come to existence although only 19 days are left for it; instead of a neutral caretaker government President Iajuddin Ahmed established a shadow government of BNP-Jamaat; a flawless voter list safeguarding the people's right to universal franchise has not been prepared yet; and the administration still remains politicised. Asked whether the grand alliance will be responsible for any constitutional crisis arising from its election boycott, Hasina said, "A constitutional crisis can be avoided by holding of fair election following Iajuddin's resignation… a constitutional crisis will be created if a farcical election is held by stealing votes."

On behalf of the grand alliance, Hasina demanded immediate resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed from the post of chief adviser (CA) and appointment of a new CA, reconstitution of the Election Commission in line with the package proposal prepared by the council of advisers, changes in the top levels of intelligence agencies, depoliticisation of the administration, a fresh election schedule following proper updating of the voter list, suspending Rapid Action Battalion's (Rab) activities till the election is over, and allowing Ershad and others to participate in the poll -- whose nomination papers had been 'illegally cancelled'. Referring to the grand alliance announced countrywide 48-hour blockade on January 7 and 8, the AL chief warned if the demands are not met even after that, then the president's official residence, Bangabhaban, will be blockaded indefinitely.

Following a series of hectic meetings among its components over the Eid holidays, the grand alliance finally yesterday decided to boycott the January 22 election. From the news briefing, the grand alliance chief asked the alliance candidates to withdraw their nomination papers prompting a large number of senior leaders to rush to the EC for withdrawing their candidacies. The leaders of the grand alliance asked the acting chief election commissioner (CEC) to postpone the electoral process to save the country from a probable disaster. Acting CEC Justice Mahfuzur Rahman however said the election will be held on January 22 as per the schedule. Soon after the grand alliance' decision, eight political parties including Communist Party of Bangladesh announced that they will also boycott the election.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Grand Alliance announces Final decision Today

The Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance ended a series of meetings last night to decide about whether to take part in the hotly disputed January 22 elections. AL President Sheikh Hasina will formally declare a unanimous alliance decision at a joint press conference today. A highly placed AL source last night said the grand alliance decided to boycott and prevent the January 22 elections and there is no environment to go to the polls.

Earlier in the day, Jatiya Party (JP) and Liberal Democratic Party called for elections boycott in resolutions after their presidium meetings and informed the AL leadership of it. JP presidium member and former Prime Minister Kazi Zafar Ahmed said "JP has no existence without Chairman Ershad and as his nominations were cancelled, they have decided not to participate in the elections". He also added as JP is a partner of the Grand Alliance, what decision they take is final and he hopes they will be empathetic to JP.