Bangladesh election will take place as scheduled, says PM

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. (Reuters)
Updated 19 February 2018

Bangladesh election will take place as scheduled, says PM

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Monday that her government will hold a general election by the end of this year, as scheduled.

“The election will take place on time and the people will exercise their voting rights,” Hasina said.

The prime minister was speaking at a press conference on her return home from an official visit to Italy and the Vatican.

Hasina addressed threats from the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) that it will boycott the election unless its chairperson, Begum Khaleda Zia, is released from prison.

Zia — who was herself prime minister of Bangladesh from 1991 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2006 — was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement on Feb. 8.

Hasina was keen to stress that the government had nothing to do with Zia’s sentence.

“The court has awarded imprisonment to Zia,” she said. “Our government did not dictate the verdict. The case was not even filed by the ruling party. It was filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission during the previous caretaker government.”

Hasina also said that the BNP was free to boycott the upcoming election, as it did the last one.

“Elections are a democratic right of the people,” she said. “If (the BNP doesn’t) participate in the election, we have nothing to do (with that decision). Here, we have a multi-party democracy.”

Zia’s adviser, the former MP Joynal Abedin Faruk, however, believes that such a scenario would be an embarrassment to Hasina and her government both nationally and internationally.

“Our chairperson is in prison now. Right at this moment our target is to set her free through a legal process,” he said, adding: “The BNP will not take part in any election without Begum Zia.”

Professor Ataur Rahman, a political analyst and president of the Bangladesh Political Science Association, believes Hasina and her party will do their utmost to ensure the BNP take part in the election.

“I definitely believe there will be a way out,” he told Arab News. “I believe there will be a positive result. The government will want to bring the BNP into the election process, but after weakening (its) political strength.”

He added that the BNP would want to “keep its existence as a political party,” and would not “waste this chance.”

BNP lawyers said on Monday that they would file a petition for bail for Zia on Tuesday, and they expected it to be granted soon.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.