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Bangladesh: End of emergency

New Delhi, Tue, 16 Dec 2008 Deepak Mohanty

Under immense internal and international pressure, Bangladesh's army-backed government has finally come to term with the fact that emergency is not ideal for restoring democracy as the nation is gearing up for general poll on December 29. The care-taker military authority has lately decided to lift the emergency on December 17 after almost two years of suspension of political rights. With this there is high optimism for a smooth transition to democracy through polls.

The democratic process is now on course with all major political parties on their campaign trail after the restrictions were lifted on holding political meetings and campaign rallies. Both the major political parties - Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia and the Awami League of former prime minister Sheikh Hasina - have joined the election process despite some earlier hitch. They had ever since been demanding absolute lift of emergency prior to the elections.

Both parties had campaigned vigorously to end the emergency and that was well supported by the international community as an election under emergency would not be convincing with any kind of restriction on civil or political rights. According to some view, the emergency and the highhandedness of military rule was essential considering rampant corruption. The caretaker government after taking over in January 2007 had promised to handover the power to a democratically elected govt but to what extent is still in apprehension.

As far as the role of army in the election is concerned, the caretaker authority has so far shown ample maturity in developing a solid foundation by accepting various demands of political parties, though the presence of army at all polling booths in terms of security is a subject of concern to many. However, it is the political parties who have extra responsibility to take the democratic process forward even after the elections irrespective of who wins the elections. They need to make the Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) functioning by cooperating to tackle the serious difficulties the country faces.

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