Vol. 5 Num 860 Sun. October 29, 2006  
Front Page

President offers to be chief adviser
His proposal comes after AL, BNP fail to agree on former chief justices; AL rejects outright; Iajuddin sits with political parties today for 'consensus man'

The hope that flickered with former chief justice KM Hasan's refusal to take office of the chief of the caretaker government seemed to have dimmed again as the BNP and the AL failed to reach a consensus about who should head the caretaker government and President Iajuddin Ahmed offered himself as a possible head, a suggestion that the AL outright rejected.

Later, the BNP said it will not accept either justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury or justice Hamidul Haque, two names that the AL proposed to the president as the next options according to the constitution, as chief adviser to the caretaker government. The two justices told The Daily Star that they are not aware of any such proposal.

The AL has urged the president to form the caretaker government by today so that it can start work by evening. Meantime, Iajuddin will sit with four major political parties -- AL, BNP, Jatiya Party and Jamaat -- today in a bid to find a consensus man to head the crucial post to conduct elections.

Each party has been asked to be represented by its general secretary and another colleague. AL has not received any invitation from the president until 12:30am tonight.

"The president expressed his desire to assume the post of the chief adviser to the caretaker government, but we told him that we want to follow the constitution," Jalil told reporters last after consulting with the party chief.

Iajuddin invited Jalil and Bhuiyan yesterday afternoon to Bangabhaban after former chief justice Hasan formally refused to take oath as 'the political parties cannot resolve their differences through dialogue'. The AL general secretary told the president that his party would not object to anyone except Hasan and Chief Election Commissioner MA Aziz becoming the caretaker government head. Jalil proposed the names of former justices Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury and Hamidul Haque as alternate candidates.

But Iajuddin said there exists a legal debate about Mahmudul Amin. At this stage, Bhuiyan chipped in and questioned the 'ability' of Hamidul, the other former justice.

The president then offered himself as the caretaker government head and said he is ready to conduct free and fair elections, Jalil said.

Another source said Bhuiyan proposed at one stage of the meeting with Iajuddin urged the president to take the responsibility of the chief adviser. The president consented to the proposal.

Jalil left Bangabhaban without debating the issue any further and sat with his party on the president's proposal at Sudha Sadan. Within five minutes of his meeting with Sheikh Hasina, president of the AL, Jalil called the president and informed him about his party's reservations about his offer heading the caretaker government and asked him to follow the provision of the constitution.

Later, Hasina explained the constitution to the press in the evening. She said the president should have approached the second justice in line as soon as Hasan refused to take oath. If the second man also turned down the proposal, then the president should have approached the next persons until he could find a justice willing to take over the post. If none of the justices was available, then the president should have consulted with the major political parties to find a person acceptable to all. The president could have offered himself as the caretaker government only if all these efforts failed to yield results.

Hasina further added that President Iajuddin is more politically biased than Hasan since he was picked up by the BNP lawmakers.

Sources in the BNP said the proposal of the president to become caretaker chief himself, which came after AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil and his BNP counterpart Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan could not agree on any former judges to head the caretaker government, quite acceptable to the BNP as he was chosen by them to replace Bandruddoza Chowdhury, the founding secretary general of the BNP.

They said BNP had opposed Mahmudul Amin and Hamidul Haque, as proposed by the AL, just as the 14-party had rejected Hasan and Aziz. If the BNP could make Amin and Hamidul feel embarrassed in the similar fashion of Hasan, then a consensus candidate, a near impossible thing, would be the next option. So the BNP was more than sure than the onus would ultimately fall on the president to become the caretaker head in addition to his presidency.

Against these latest developments, fear for more violence stoked up as the AL-led 14-party asked its activists not to leave streets until the oath-taking of the caretaker government chief is over. BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also urged his party men to respond in the same language as the 14-party.

Khaleda said: "The president is now the only elected representative. He will take the decision on how to ensure free and fair elections. We will accept whatever decision the president will take," Khaleda Zia said yesterday at a rally in the capital.

President Iajuddin Ahmed at the meeting informed BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil that the immediate past chief justice KM Hasan had declined to assume the post of the chief adviser to the caretaker government, a Bangabhaban spokesman said.

Emerging from Bangabhaban after an hour and a half, Abdul Jalil told journalists that the conclusion of the meeting is that the caretaker government will start functioning by this evening.

"The caretaker government will have to be formed by tomorrow without Justice KM Hasan or Justice MA Aziz as its chief. We will accept anyone else as the chief adviser in accordance with the constitution," Jalil said claiming that his counterpart BNP Secretary General Bhuiyan held similar views.

Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan however said they discussed some proposals about formation of the caretaker government. "Now we will discuss the matter in my party forum and inform the president about the outcome. I hope, the issue will be resolved by tomorrow," he said.

After the meeting, Press Secretary to the President Mokhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, at a news briefing said the president invited the two leaders to discuss the prevailing situation and he informed them that the immediate past chief justice KM Hasan had declined to assume the post.

"The president urged the two leaders to continue the dialogue to reach a consensus immediately," the press secretary said.

Bangabhaban, the residence-cum-office of the president, and the cabinet division on Friday completed all preparation to administer the oath of the chief adviser yesterday. But Justice Hasan in a letter to the president declined to assume the office. Bangabhaban, however, did not disclose the news and rather informed the media that Justice Hasan felt sick after the prime minister had left Bangabhaban on Friday night.

In fact, Justice Hasan yesterday did not say he was sick rather he declined to assume the post considering the prevailing political situation.

Sources said the formation of the caretaker government was delayed following a decision of BNP's Young Turks in a bid to remain in office for a few more days. In line with the plan, State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar and some other young leaders of BNP on Friday night held a meeting with the police high ups and sought their assistance to foil the AL-led coalition's agitation on the streets.

Following Friday night's meeting, the law enforcers were active on the streets to suppress the AL-led coalition's street agitations.

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