Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bangladesh Election: Sheikh Hasina, Allies Sworn In

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Elected members of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and its allied parties were sworn in as members of the Jatiyo Parishad (national parliament) on January 2, 2009. Mr. Jamiruddin Sarkar, the outgoing Speaker of the of the House, led the swearing-in ceremony. Sheikh Hasina with about 230 elected members of Awami League and about 50 others from allied parties took an oath of office as new MPs. As the leader of the majority party Sheikh Hasina will be sworn in on January 6 as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, who reluctantly conceded her defeat, did not participate in the swearing-in ceremony today with elected members of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other allied parties without assigning any reason.

Election Results

In the December 29 election, 39 political parties contested for 300 parliamentary seats, of which the Grand Alliance got 262 seats (the Awami League 230 , the Jatiyo Party 27 and other parties 5) and the Four-Party Alliance secured 32 seats (the BNP 29, Jaamat-e-Islami Party 2 and other 1). Due to death of one candidate, election for that seat has been rescheduled for January 12. Begum Khaleda Zia complained of vote-rigging by the winning parties. Francesc Vendrell, chief of the UN panel on Bangladesh election, in a press conference mentioned that Bangladesh election was free and fair. The European Union team, India, the USA and other independent election observers echoed a similar sentiment.

Sheikh Hasina expressed her willingness to work with the opposition parties for strengthening democracy and achieving economic progress. She is even willing to give senior political positions to the opposition if they cooperate with her government.

Minority Voters Were At Ease

Mr. Vendrell expressed his satisfaction at the ease religious and ethnic minority voters felt throughout the country. He said that, unlike in the past, minority voters could cast their ballots without facing any intimidation.

Zillur Rahman Eyed As Next President

Both Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League said that former Awami League minister Zillur Rahman would be given the position of the country's President.

Renewed Call for War Crimes Trial

The Bangladesh Today reports that the Sector Commanders' Forum (SCF) at a post-election press conference at the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka demanded that the newly-elected government bring the war criminals to trial "for their offence of murder, rape, robbery, arson on properties during the libersation war in 1971."

Air Vice Marshall (retd.) A. K. Khandaker, chairman of the SCF, renewed the call upon the BNP to sever all its ties with the Jaamat-e-Islami that had actively cooperated with the West Pakistani army in the then East Pakistan (present Bangladesh) and help punish war criminals. He also urged the new government to revive the International War Crime (Tribunal) Act 1973 which was initiated by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (father of newly-elected MP and next Prime Minister-to-be Sheikh Hasina), form a commission or establish office of the chief prosecutor, revive Collaborator Act that was cancelled by a new government in 1975, send a formal request to the UN Secretary General requesting for trial of war criminals as done with Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda. The SCF leaders also called for the restoration of 1972 Constitution that had declared Bangladesh a non-communal state.

Air Vice Marshall Khandakar finally said, "The SCF will provide all information and documents required to punish war criminals during the trial." Bookmark and Share