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Former President Ershad set to join Zia-led alliance

Ershad is all set to lead his Jatiya Party into Zia's four-party alliance, a move that is likely to force Jamaat-e-Islami out of the grouping.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2006 12:59 IST

Former Bangladesh president HM Ershad is all set to lead his Jatiya Party into the four-party alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia, a move that could force Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami out of the grouping.

Ershad could make his move on Friday.

"The party chairman has decided to return to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led four-party alliance, and this will be announced tomorrow (Friday)," Jatiya Party (JP) presidium member Kazi Firoz Rashid told the Daily Star.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is unhappy at this but has so far not indicated which way it will go.

JI thinks the alliance could gain a majority in the January general election even without Ershad, who would be only diluting its thrust.

The alliance that ruled Bangladesh from Oct 2001 till last week is already in the process of transformation, particularly after the BNP split recently when 13 political leaders, including ministers and members of parliament deserted it to form the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under the leadership of former president Badruddoza Chowdhury.

The Jamaat's another Islamist ally, Islamic Oikya Jote, a group of splinter Muslim organisations, has already severed its ties with Zia's BNP.

The newspaper said that Ershad is in a hurry because he is facing dissidence from the party's top brass, including former prime minister Kazi Zafar Ahmed, who favours a seat-sharing arrangement worked out before joining the alliance.

Ershad had indicated that he would take his final decision next week but appears to have advanced his decision due to internal dissensions in the party.

Zafar has protested the 'unilateral' decision.

Ershad, 77, who ruled Bangladesh during 1982-90, has been keen on joining the Zia-led alliance also because of the reported understanding that if returned to power in the coming elections, he would be the alliance's candidate for the presidency.

According to reports, he visited Jeddah some weeks ago with the hope of seeking the good offices of the Saudi Arabian royalty to facilitate his entry into the alliance. Later Zia's son Tareq Rahman reportedly went to Jeddah to follow up on the issue.

Ershad's party had 13 lawmakers in parliament, winning seven percent of the votes polled in the 2001 elections.

First Published: Nov 03, 2006 12:59 IST