12:00 AM, November 11, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 11, 2012

Free, Fair Polls

Sit together, sort it out

Seminar presses major parties for consensus, strong EC

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Staff Correspondent

Speakers at a seminar yesterday stressed the need for political consensus and strengthening of the Election Commission (EC) to hold a free and fair parliamentary election and avoiding any political violence.
The major political parties have to sit together in a dialogue to determine the system of government for the election period to overcome the ongoing political crisis, they said. The seminar focused on the verdict relating to the 13th amendment and political crisis at the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) auditorium in the capital.
Veteran journalist ABM Musa, however, expressed his fear that the ongoing political crisis, which was created over constituting the election-period government, would not be resolved without violence.
All political problems of Bangladesh had been solved in the past on the streets and after violence, he said.
Senior lawyer Rafique-ul Huq said the next parliamentary elections could be held under an interim government as proposed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He suggested that the major political parties such as the ruling Awami League and opposition BNP propose the names of some sitting MPs and a panel of three retired chief justices whose task would be to select one among the MPs as the chief of the interim government.
Constitutional expert M Amir-Ul Islam said there was no guarantee that the elections would be credible “if those are held under a caretaker government”.
If the EC is sincere, powerful and impartial, he said, it could hold elections in a free and fair manner. He mentioned that all the elections conducted by the present and previous ECs had been credible.
Eminent legal expert Rokanuddin Mahmud said there was no significance of the Supreme Court's full verdict on the 13th amendment since the government had already scrapped the caretaker government system through 15th Amendment to the Constitution.
Earlier, in its brief verdict, the SC said the next two parliamentary polls could be held under a caretaker government.
Rokanuddin also questioned the former chief justice's giving the full verdict 18 months after his retirement from office.
Another legal expert Shahdeen Malik expressed doubts as to whether the next elections would be fair and credible “if they are held under a political government”.
Former adviser to the caretaker government AF Hasan Arif said people's opinions should be solicited to decide under which system the next elections would be held.
Abdul Matin Khasru, a former law minister, said there was no scope for restoring the system as “the state cannot be run for a single moment by an unelected government”.
Former election commissioner Brig M Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hussein said the present EC was not independent yet. The chief election commissioner says different things at different times, he observed.
The previous EC had proposed to the government 17 amendments to the Representation of the People Order (RPO) as a way of making itself independent and strong, said Sakhawat, “but the government did not approve [the proposal]”.
Vice-Chairman of Bangladesh Bar Council Khandker Mahbub Hossain, President of Supreme Bar Association Zainul Abedin and columnist Syed Abul Moksud called for a restoration of the caretaker government system in the interest of elections being held in a free and fair manner.
Law Reporters Forum organised the programme chaired by its President Saleh Uddin when GS Mashudul Haque also spoke.

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