PM interpreted verdict wrongly
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia said yesterday the constitutional provision of installing a non-partisan caretaker government to oversee general elections remains legal in spite of the recent Supreme Court verdict.
Addressing a crowded press conference at her Gulshan office in the capital, the leader of the opposition in parliament accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of making “wrong and confusing interpretations of the verdict.”
Khaleda quoted part of the verdict where it says, “The Constitution (Thirteenth amendment) Act. 1996 (Act 1 of 1996) is prospectively declared void and ultra vires the constitution.”
This clearly means, she said, the illegality of the provision will not be effective now.
She mentioned that the verdict also said the 10th and the 11th parliamentary elections may be held under caretaker government system for the sake of safety of the people and the state.
Moudud Ahmed, a former law minister and a central leader of BNP, backed Khaleda's interpretation of the SC verdict.
The interpretation focused particularly on the verdict's words “prospectively declared void.”
Moudud said the system has been declared illegal only for the future.
Giving his interpretation of "prospectively", Moudud told the Daily Star, “The court said at least two more elections can be held under caretaker government. The illegality will be applicable after tenth and eleventh parliamentary elections.”
In her written statement, Khaleda said the prime minister is dreaming of staying in power to hold the next election. “Referring to the verdict, the prime minister is repeatedly saying the caretaker system has become illegal. What the prime minister is saying is wrong and confusing. The Supreme Court verdict does not mean the caretaker system has become illegal”
The BNP chief said her party will sit with the government if it announces that the non-party caretaker government system will continue and the provision will kept in the constitution as it is.
She went on, “We will sit with the government to decide who will be the head of non-party caretaker government only when it is necessary. But there is no need now to hold discussion.”
Khaleda's reading of the SC verdict came amid intense political debate over the fate of non-partisan caretaker government. BNP and its allies have already taken the issue to the streets, enforcing three days of countrywide hartals in a week this month.
The prime minister and her ruling Awami League insist that the caretaker government system as provided in the 13th amendment to the constitution has been dead since the SC verdict on May 10. She is asking BNP to return to parliament to discuss a new formula of caretaker government.
When pointed out that as per the existing provision of caretaker system. Just retired chief justice ABM Khairul Haque may become the chief adviser, Khaleda said her party will not accept him. “He is controversial and he is not a neutral person at all.”
“There are a lot of options [regarding head of caretaker government] in existing provision and we will be able to settle it through discussion if government withdraws its decision to scrap caretaker system,” she added.
The former prime minister said also said, “No new formula is necessary. We gave our opinion clearly and now the government has to take its decision. We also want to discuss strengthening the Election Commission comprising neutral and competent persons after the formation of caretaker government.”
Rejecting repeated calls to sit for dialogue with the government, Khaleda said, “We are not against discussion. We can sit anywhere to discuss any important issue with anyone for the sake of national interest. But discussion on something which is not necessary will be a waste of time”
She further said, “There is no scope to discuss a settled issue [caretaker government system] … This cannot be a reason for joining parliament sittings.”
The government must stop what she called its ill attempt to scrap the caretaker provision before any discussion.
Asked about EC move to introduce electronic voting machine (EVM), Khaleda said the Election Commission is not neutral, and it is working for others. “It (EVM) will create more opportunities to rig the polls. So, we can't accept it.”
Standing committee members of the and party and its acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir accompanied the chairperson. It was Khaleda's second press conference on caretaker government issue this month.