Vol. 5 Num 365 Tue. June 07, 2005  

ID card a must for free, fair election
Speakers tell roundtable

Introduction of voter identity (ID) card is a must to ensure free and fair election, said the speakers at a roundtable yesterday.

They said the rigging of polls in the past had resulted in creating political and social conflicts hampering democracy and good governance.

The roundtable on 'Importance of Citizens' Identity Card for National Aspects including Fair Election' was organised by Bangladesh Union Sadasya Sangstha (BUSS), an organisation of the union parishad (UP) members, at the National Press Club in the city.

Speaking on the occasion, Communications Minister Nazmul Huda presented a new concept that incorporates voter ID option in passports.

"Introduction of this integrated system will serve both purposes - overseas travels as well as exercise of franchise," he said.

Referring to government's failure to introduce ID card, the minister said, "We don't want to repeat the same fiasco that occurred while identifying the card previously."

"The rigging under this new system will be nil," he asserted.

Huda suggested the formation of committees by the existing and previous UP members to collect voters' information and pictures, for sending those to the election commission (EC) through thana and district administration.

The EC will then send them to passport offices to issue the passports, he added.

Justice Abdur Rouf, former chief election commissioner, rejected the idea saying that it might be an additional source of corruption in the administration.

Laying emphasis on national ID card incorporating the option for voter ID, he said, "As Bangladeshis we don't have any identity. It's a humiliation for us."

Justice Rouf regretted that he was committed to introduce the voter ID cards, but failed due to the apathy of the bureaucrats.

"It is possible to complete the process within eight months if efficient manpower and technology are used," he said, adding that political will is the most important thing for this.

Lt General (retd) Mahbubur Rahman MP, chairman of the parliamentary committee on defence ministry, termed the introduction of voter ID card a part of reforms in the EC, and observed that it needs to be done immediately.

BUSS Chairman Golam Sarwar Milon presided over the roundtable, while Columnist Harunur Rashid presented the concept paper.

Former minister Kazi Firoze Rashid, BUSS Advisor Nabab Begum Shamsunnahar Khwaja Ahsanullah, Vice-chairpersons Prof Masuda M Rashid Chowdhury and Captain (retd) MA Quddus, Liberty Movement Secretary General Rita Rahman, Prof M Yusuf Ali, Prof Ataur Rahman, Brig Gen (retd) Sakhawat Hossain, and FBCCI Vice- president Abul Kashem Haider also took part in the discussion.