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Sheikh Hasina hints at reforming party

Tells her party leaders that under a reform programme no leading party officials would be able to take up ministerial posts if the party won an election.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2007 12:41 IST
Anis Ahmed

Bangladesh's former prime minister Sheikh Hasina hinted on Sunday that she would reform her party, responding to calls that it should be run more democratically and less like an autocracy.

At the moment, Hasina takes all the decisions for the Awami League, without holding general meetings to form policy. She has been criticised for promoting family members above top party leaders to secure her control over the party.

She told Awami League leaders that under a reform programme, which was still being worked out, no leading party officials would be able to take up ministerial posts or other government roles if the party won an election.

"She also said that holding key positions in the party and government simultaneously prevents one from doing justice to any," private broadcaster, the Radio Today, quoted one visiting leader as saying.

Political analysts said there was a need to distance the roles of party and government leaders to reduce opportunities for corruption.

Separately, Tofayel Ahmed, an Awami presidium member and former minister, said Hasina would probably not like to play dual roles anymore.

Hasina became chief of the Awami League in early 1980s, and has served once as prime minister and twice as leader of the opposition.

The call for curbing her power in the party came after the country's army-backed interim government called a state of emergency and cancelled a planned election in January.

It is also pursuing corrupt politicians.

Hasina faces charges of extortion, which are being investigated by police. She is accused of graft and abetting murders related to political violence.

Hasina denies all the charges and says they have been trumped up by critics and opponents.

Hasina was planning to leave Dhaka on Friday night to go to the United States to see her son, daughter and their families.

But a court on Thursday ordered immigration officials and police not to allow her to leave, saying her presence in the country was needed for the investigation of extortion charges. She cancelled the trip hours before her scheduled flight.

Hasina's rival and the most recent prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, also faces allegations of corruption and misuse of power, especially in promoting her kin. She denies the charges.

Her elder son and political heir apparent, Tareque Rahman, is among more than 170 key political figures detained by security forces in the corruption hunt. Her younger son Arafat Rahman is also facing charges of extortion, police said.

Many BNP insiders including former ministers and lawmakers want Khaleda to reform her party.

"The reform process is continuing. Anyone trying to oppose or stay out of it, will be left out," ex-lawmaker Sardar Sakhawat Hossain Bakul told reporters.

The interim government headed by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed said it hoped to hold the election before end of 2008, after the clean up of politics.