Bangla chief advisor assures UN of holding polls by end of 2008

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Dhaka, Sep 29 (UNI) Bangladesh's military-backed caretaker government chief Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed has assured the United Nations that a free and fair election would be held in Bangladesh by the end of 2008.

Addressing the plenary meeting of the 62nd UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, he said ''We've pledged to put Bangladesh on a higher trajectory of good governance, rule of law and development.'' He said his administration was committed to ensure elections within the timeframe adding that a timeline of the end of 2008 was anounced by the Election Commissionfor for holding the next parliamentary election.

''If we are to deliver a free, fair and meaningful election, we must first free our politics from the clutches of corruption and violence,'' the chief advisor was quoted as saying by the UNB news agency.

''Recent events in Bangladesh have evoked considerable interest worldwide, as we struggle to fulfil the promise of democracy for our people,'' the chief adviser told the UN General Assembly.

The chief adviser while illustrating a picture of the country's poor state of democracy, political violence and rampant corruption in the past, said ''The fabric of our democracy had been torn apart by years of catastrophic corruption.'' He further said, ''There was little hope that a tainted election could have ended the cycle of violence. A state of emergency was, therefore, declared on January 11 in an effort to end the ongoing chaos and to usher in a new beginning.'' Dr Ahmed in his speech touched various aspects like ineffective democracy, corruption, current political party reform, reconstituted anti-Corruption Commission, National Human Rights commission and commitment to fight religious fundamentalism on domestic plane.

Focusing on the upcoming elections, he said ''an election cannot simply be a once-off casting of votes, but must be part of a dynamic and a continuing process whereby people freely choose their leaders.'' ''Democracy is not an event, it is an ongoing process. It is not just about casting votes and changing governments; it is about social justice, accountability and empowerment of the people.'' ''Our democracy has been brutally undermined by ruinous corruption,'' in spite holding three elections in past two decades, Dr Ahmed said.

''If our democratic spirit is to emerge unscathed from this downward spiral and if we are to deliver a free, fair and meaningful election, we must first free our politics from the clutches of corruption and violence,'' he emphasised.

He said in Bangladesh the very institutions laying the foundations of democracy were eroded by ongoing corruption.

UNI

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