Bangladesh’s Zia seeks vote ‘to save Islam and country’


Dhaka : Former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia has been urging people to “save Islam and the country” by voting for her Islamist alliance nominees in the parliamentary election due Dec 29.

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“Save the country and Islam by voting for BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and its alliance, and don’t cast your vote for those who defamed the religion,” Zia said at a large rally at Sylhet in northeastern Bangladesh.

She attacked her political rivals, mainly Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina who heads a nine-party alliance of centrist and Left-of-centre parties, and sections of the media for “misguiding the people by publishing false and fictitious information” about her alliance, The Daily Star newspaper said Tuesday.

“Bangladesh is in no way a fundamentalist state…It is a liberal democracy with religious values… Any quarter trying to unleash anarchy in the name of religion will be dealt with an iron hand,” Zia told another rally at Brahmanbaria.

However, she assured that people of all religions would have the freedom to practice their faith if BNP and an alliance of Islamist parties returned to power.

“We believe in the freedom of people from every faith, be they Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists or Christians,” New Age newspaper quoted her as saying.

Zia’s second term as prime minister (2001-06) in an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, saw the unprecedented rise of militancy and of individuals like Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leader Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, who was executed for killing two judges.