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Sheikh Hasina supports interim government, seeks early polls

The elections in Bangladesh were called off amid political turmoil in January.

world Updated: Mar 16, 2007 11:49 IST

Strongly supporting the caretaker government's moves, including its drive against corruption, crime and militancy, Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina has said that she would "legitimise" them if elected to power.

But the former prime minister has sought early general elections, which were called off amid political turmoil in January when a national emergency placing curbs on political activities was imposed.

The performance of the government headed by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed in the last two months, she said, had earned the confidence and appreciation of the people.

But the government should hold polls while this confidence and respect are there, she said, emphasising that there was no alternative to democracy.

"Frustration may generate among the people for delaying the polls... frustration leads to agitation, but we don't want any further agitation," she was quoted as saying in Daily Star newspaper before leaving on a month's visit to the US.

"Delaying election in a democratic process is not a good sign... the caretaker government should hold the polls earlier to save democracy," she said, adding that it would not be good to keep the election postponed for an indefinite period, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) reported.

The Ahmed government has detained an estimated 45,000 people in its anti-crime drive in the last two months.

Those detained include a score of former ministers and lawmakers, most of whom belong to the government of Begum Khaleda Zia, Hasina's political rival. Among those jailed is Zia's politician son Tarique Rahman, charged with extortion.

There has also been a sprinkling of Awami League (AL) and Jatiya Party leaders caught for past acts of corruption, misuse of authority and cheating the public.

Political analysts noted that Hasina was supporting the Ahmed government despite her own house being raided in search of one of her cousins, a politician.

Hasina, a former prime minister (1996-2001), heads the country's largest political party and a powerful alliance.

Referring to the current anti-graft operation, the AL president said people were appreciating the drive and would applaud the caretaker government if it assists to run the country under a democratic process.

"Don't be afraid of the drive by the joint forces. There is nothing to fear as this drive is being conducted for catching big thieves and curbing corruption," she said and vowed to intensify the anti-graft drive if voted to power.

While defending her own party colleagues who have been nabbed, Hasina urged the caretaker government to continue the drive against thieves, corrupt people and those who grabbed and smuggled out people's wealth.

"But some innocent people had been arrested during this drive. Why were Obaidul Quader and Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir arrested? How much wealth do they have?"

She was speaking to the media before leaving on a month's family visit to the US, where her only son Sajib Joy Wajed lives with his American wife Christina.

She is to complete her book, "Bangabadhu Diary", about the policies of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of Awami League and independent Bangladesh's first president, who was assassinated in a military coup in 1975.

First Published: Mar 16, 2007 11:34 IST