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Friday, June 27, 2008 07:11 AM GMT+06:00
News from The Daily Star
Khaleda Against Local Body Polls First
Govt wants to take country back to pre-Jan 11 situation
Detained BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday said the government wants to take the country back to the pre-January 11 situations by holding the local body elections before the parliamentary polls ignoring opinions of all political parties.
"All major and minor political parties including the Awami League want the national elections first. But ignoring the opinions the government wants to hold the local body elections first which will take the country back to the pre-January 11 situations," she told journalists after yesterday's trial proceedings in the Niko graft case against her and 10 others at a special court.
"By holding the local body elections, the government plans to form a party of its chosen people and cling to power by electing them," she said.
Judge Khandaker Kamal Uz-zaman of Special Court-9 yesterday set July 7 for the next hearing on charge framing in the case.
Khaleda was produced before the court at 10:05am.
She told reporters that her party wants to cooperate with the government, but it has to create a favourable atmosphere first for holding the parliamentary elections.
"We want to cooperate, we want an acceptable election with participation of all political parties. But before that, the government will have to lift the state of emergency to ensure a congenial atmosphere for the election," she said, adding, "Creating that atmosphere is the duty of the government and it has to prove its neutrality by treating everybody equally."
She said, "Several parliamentary elections were held under caretaker governments in the past without the state of emergency in place. The present caretaker government will also have to lift the emergency if it wants to hold a free and fair election."
Questioning the government's willingness to hold the parliamentary election, Khaleda said there should not be any obstacle to holding the election in October.
Justifying her call for holding the parliamentary polls by October, she said the Ramadan, Hajj and Eid-ul-Azha would all take place after October and that is why it would not be wise to hold the national election after October.
The former premier said the government in its one-and-half-years rule has left the country entangled in enormous problems and only an elected government can help the nation out of those problems.
Referring to the achievements of the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government, Khaleda said, "Now the economy has seen a slide and the GDP has come down to 5 percent from 7 percent."
Coming back to local government polls, she said BNP wants other elections too but those will have to be held after the parliament elections.
Demanding overseas treatment of her detained sons and all other detained ailing politicians including Awami League leader Mohammad Nasim, the BNP chief said, "All citizens of the country are equal to me and all the detained politicians who received overseas treatment earlier and seek treatment now should be sent abroad."
As the court sat at 10:10am yesterday, the prosecution said they wanted to open the case since the day was fixed for charge framing.
But opposing the prosecution, the defence attorneys said they would move to the High Court (HC) against the special court's rejection of the defence petition for adjournment of the Niko graft case.
Judge Kamal Uz-zaman asked the defence to let the court move with the case as the case is exceptional.
But the defence lawyers sought adjournment again, saying the hearing on charge framing would be infructuous (ineffective) if the HC stays the trial proceeding.
The defence lawyers told the court that they yesterday received the HC order saying the petition would be dealt with when the HC resumes on June 29 after the summer vacation.
The prosecution said the defence can surely go to the higher court but there was no obstacle to opening the case yesterday. They said they have been stuck at the point from where they started. They appealed to the court for opening the case.
When the court asked the prosecution to open the case the defence said, "If you [the judge] open the case in this way, it might seem to us that we will not get justice from you."
After about 30 minutes of heated exchanges, the court adjourned the hearing on charge framing and fixed July 7 as the next date for it.
Eight other accused in the case including former law minister barrister Moudud Ahmed and former state minister AKM Mosharraf Hossain were also produced before the court yesterday.
On December 9 last year, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case with Tejgaon Police Station against Khaleda and 10 others for abusing power in awarding a gas exploration and extraction deal to Canadian company Niko.