Opposition promises to restore secularism
The term secularism was dropped from the 1972 statute book and Bangladesh became an Islamic republic during Ziaur Rahman's rule.india Updated: May 19, 2006 12:14 IST
Leaders of the main opposition Awami League have promised that if voted to power in the next parliamentary elections, they would restore "secularism" as one of the four basic tenets of Bangladesh's Constitution.
The term "secularism" was dropped from the 1972 statute book and Bangladesh became an Islamic republic during the rule of presidents Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad.
The declaration came at a function to mark completion of 25 years of the return home from New Delhi of Sheikh Hasina.
The elder daughter of founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had lived in India for nearly five years after her father and most of the family members were killed in a military coup on August 15, 1975.
Terming Hasina as the symbol of the country's secular and democratic politics, the Awami leaders said she was "quite competent" to help the nation overcome the accumulated odds of the last four and a half years to give democracy a complete institutional shape, the Bangladesh Observer newspaper said.
However, the Awami League leaders said they could win only if a free and fair poll under a caretaker government was conducted.
The constitution's provision pertaining to setting up of a caretaker government has become a subject of political controversy, as the Opposition wants "electoral reforms." The Opposition will not sit on the same table with Islamist parties that are part of the ruling coalition.
But there is no Opposition boycott. "We haven't said we'll not participate in the upcoming national elections... we'll surely take part in the election after our demand for electoral reforms is implemented," Sheikh Hasina was quoted as telling Italian Ambassador Pietro Ballero who called on her.
Meanwhile, ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party's secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan has argued that there is "no scope to rig" the general election under the present caretaker government system.
He said if there was any scope to rig in the elections under the caretaker administration the BNP would not have been defeated in 1996 and the Awami League in 2001, the BSS news agency said.