Indoor politics is allowed again from today, albeit on a limited scale with strict conditions attached, following the chief adviser's (CA) declaration of lifting the ban through his address to the nation last night.
"The government will lift the restrictions on indoor politics tomorrow to create an environment conducive to talks with political parties," CA Fakhruddin Ahmed said adding that reforms will be brought to the electoral laws and rules after the discussions with the parties.
According to a gazette notification issued by the home ministry last night, a political party may hold meetings of its forums to discuss only its organisational reforms and the Election Commission's (EC) proposal for electoral reforms, sources in the ministry said.
A political party may hold the meetings at its central office, hotels, restaurants, auditoriums, and residences of its members, but it will have to inform the Dhaka Metropolitan Police in advance about the meetings.
Following the notification, offices of the political parties, which had been locked since the imposition of the ban on indoor politics on March 8, may be reopened.
The political parties however may hold the meetings only in the capital as the ban on indoor politics remains in the rest of the country, the sources added.
According to the notification, which was issued amending a provision of the Emergency Power Rules, a maximum of 50 leaders may meet at a time.
"If the number of attendees at a meeting is to exceed 50, the party will have to take prior permission from the home ministry," a source in the ministry told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
The official said a political party may also hold its council to bring reforms to itself with prior permission from the home ministry.
According to the Emergency Power Rules, those who will violate the restrictions will be punished with prison terms of two years to five years and fines.
Indoor politics was allowed even after the declaration of the state of emergency on January 11, but the government on March 8 imposed a total ban on politics including indoor politics on March 8 saying the political parties had been abusing the limited political freedom.
The present EC, led by ATM Shamsul Huda, was reconstituted on February 4, and soon after it started preparing a draft proposal for massive electoral reforms, which was disclosed to the people on April 5 with an announcement that the commission would finalise the proposal following consultations with the political parties.
The poll chief at a meeting with the law adviser on April 4 first asked the government to lift the ban on indoor politics to pave the way for talks with the political parties. Since then, the commission had been calling for a partial if not a complete lifting of the ban for creating an environment conducive to holding fruitful discussions.
The political parties also had been saying that they would not sit with the EC to discuss the proposal for electoral reforms until the ban on indoor politics is lifted. Due to the ban, the EC could not sit with the parties although it held a discussion with civil society personalities and journalists on the proposed electoral reforms.
According to the EC's July 15 electoral roadmap and its August 28 announcement, the commission is scheduled to start dialogues with the political parties on September 12, which is supposed to continue till November 29.
The EC already started inviting the political parties to the much awaited dialogues, but before the government's announcement of relaxing the ban on indoor politics it was not sure whether it would be able to begin the talks on schedule, as the parties were not being able to hold their internal meetings due to the ban.
CEC ATM Shamsul Huda yesterday noon had told reporters that they would again meet the CA if the government would not lift or at least relax the ban on indoor politics by September 11.