Bangla to open dialogue with political parties

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Dhaka, Jan 12: Bangladesh army-backed caretaker government today said it would soon open dialogue with political parties for transition to democracy through free, fair and neutral elections.

The interim government would also consider removing restrictions on indoor politics throughout the country as well as relax or lift the state of emergency considering the necessity or given situation. Chief advisor of the caretaker government Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed made the assurances through a nationwide address over state-owned radio and television this evening marking his completion of one-year in the office. Dr Ahmed, a former Governor of Bangladesh Bank and a bureaucrat of World Bank, was installed in power on January 12 last year a day after the country's President Iajuddin Ahmed promulgated the state of emergency.

The emergency that banned political activities was imposed to quell political turmoil over various allegations against abortive parliamentary polls originally slated for January 22 last yaer.

The incumbent government also supported by western donors waged war on corrupt politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats. During the anti-graft drive nearly 200 high profile politicians including former prime minister Khalkeda Zia and Sheikh Hasina were arrested along with former Ministers and Members of Parliament.

Country's major political parties have been demanding to lift the state of emergency, release of their leaders and transfer of power to elected representatives through immediate polls.

Dr Ahmed in categorical terms said his government is committed to hold parliamentary polls according to the Election Commission roadmap by December 2008, if possible ahead of it.

''And there is no room for confusion about it,'' he told the nation.

Terming 2008 as the most important year for Bangladesh's history, he said, ''because, we will stage a transition to genuine democracy following the set roadmap fulfilling the aspiration of the people and the government.'' ''In the world history such spontaneous transition is rare, but we are going to do it. Because, we believe democracy has no alternative,'' Dr Ahmed said.

About dialogue with political parties, the Chief Advisor said the Council of Advisors took a decision on holding dialogue with parties on January 10 and steps will be taken soon in this regard.

He urged political parties to take advantage of this situation and build them democratic and corruption free, 'the sooner the better.' ''We hope mutual discussions among the government, election commission and political parties will prepare an expanded boulevard to switch over to democracy.'' Dr Ahmed said.

The Chief Advisor said, ''we must arrange elections acceptable to all this year, free from terrorism, muscle power, black money and influence of weapons reflecting your expectations to establish honest and competent leadership.''

UNI

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