US wants early lifting of ban on politics in Bangladesh


Dhaka : The US and Britain have welcomed the timetable for general elections in Bangladesh and said they would support efforts to facilitate the process.

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Both the nations, however, have not offered any comment on Bangladesh’s caretaker government arresting former prime minister Sheikh Hasina in a case of extortion Monday.

The US – which has also called for early lifting of the ban on political activities – and Britain were among the countries that had refrained from commenting when Tareq Rahman, the politician-son of Hasina’s rival and another former prime minister Khaleda Zia, was arrested on a similar charge on March 7.

Reacting to concerns expressed by the US, Britain, the European Union and other nations, Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda Sunday announced what he called a ‘roadmap’ to the elections. Under this timetable, the elections, called off in January amidst political turmoil, would take place towards the end of next year.

Welcoming the announcement as “the best way to generate momentum in restoring democracy in the country”, a US embassy spokesperson said: “We believe that setting a specific, time-bound goal to hold credible elections is the best way to generate – and sustain – the momentum necessary to restore democracy in Bangladesh.”

The US would support the caretaker government’s “timely and concerted efforts to make this roadmap a reality”, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) quoted him as saying.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission added that “credible elections that can sustain democracy in Bangladesh in the longer term” are essential for this country and Britain was ready to offer “practical support”.

A blanket ban on political activity is in force since the national emergency was imposed in January.

The government has in the meanwhile reportedly encouraged the floating of a new political party. On Monday, Sadek Siddique, one of the initiators of the Jagrata Janata party, emerged from the sickbed to lead a procession “welcoming” Hasina’s arrest.

The Daily Star said this and a string of other processions by the new party’s cadres were held under police protection.

Sadek was quoted as saying: “Though I am sick now, I arranged the processions for the sake of the country and the nation.”

He demanded Zia’s arrest as well and acknowledged that police patrol vehicles were ahead and behind the processions.

He returned to the sickbed at the hospital after leading the demonstration, the newspaper said.