Vol. 5 Num 904 Tue. December 12, 2006  
Front Page

4 advisers resign in frustration
Crisis deepens, Iajuddin moves to bring them back

The persisting political crisis seems to have deepened further as in an unprecedented move, four advisers to the caretaker government (CG) finally resigned yesterday seething with frustration over President and Chief Adviser (CA) Iajuddin Ahmed's frequent unilateral actions on election issues.

Adviser Dr Akbar Ali Khan, Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, CM Shafi Sami and Sultana Kamal sent their resignation letters to the president in the morning.

Later they told reporters that despite hectic efforts, they could not contribute anymore to create a congenial atmosphere for holding the next parliamentary election, and decided to resign.

The president, who did not accept the resignation letters until 12:00 last night, however, sent Adviser Dhiraj Kumar Nath to the four advisers to persuade them to reconsider their decision to resign.

But the attempt failed to reach any rapprochement as the four advisers were rigid in their position, sources said.

Dhiraj told reporters that he requested them on behalf of the chief adviser to attend a meeting at the Bangabhaban scheduled for this afternoon.

The president's emissary would resume the move today.

It, however, could not be learnt what was in the president's proposal for bringing back the deserting advisers.

The advisers, who had repeatedly expressed their frustrations over the president's unilateral actions and even remained absent from office for a day, took the decision following Iajuddin's unwillingness to recast the Election Commission (EC) as per the CG's package proposal, and his unilateral decision on army deployment.

"I have resigned as I could not work for creating an atmosphere for a free and fair election," Akbar Ali said.

"We could not work properly for creating an atmosphere for holding the next parliamentary election in a free and fair manner. We had given many suggestions that were ignored," Sultana Kamal said.

Echoing the same view, Shafi Sami told reporters," I had said on several occasions that if I could not play proper role for a free and fair election, I would resign, and that is why I have done so."

Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury said, "Mainly, the decision on deployment of armed forces at this moment is not acceptable. It was not possible for me to help improve the situation as it has further been clouded by the deployment of armed forces."

The four advisers had communicated with the Bangabhaban on Sunday and set appointment to meet the president at 11:00 am yesterday, but Iajuddin suddenly cancelled the appointment. All the four did not attend their offices yesterday and sent the resignation letters through messengers.

They were later invited to have tea at the Bangabhaban in the afternoon but none of them responded to it.

Akbar Ali said he wanted to meet the president to submit his resignation. Although he got an appointment, it was cancelled later. "When the chief adviser has no time for four advisers, how can we stay?"

In the first such incident in the history of caretaker governments, the four advisers stepped down 42 days after the advisers were sworn in on October 31 night amid a volatile political situation.

Iajuddin, elected as president by the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami-led alliance in the last parliament, assumed the office of the CA on October 29 before exploring four constitutional alternatives on appointment of CA. He will now decide whether new advisers will be appointed.

He held an emergency meeting with the remaining six advisers at the Bangabhaban yesterday afternoon. He did not convene any meeting of the council of advisers since its Saturday night meeting where he disclosed his decision on army deployment.

At yesterday's meeting, Iajuddin decided to send some of the advisers to the four advisers to persuade them to withdraw their resignation letters.

But the disgruntled advisers remained rigid on their stance.

When contacted last night, Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury said, "It will not be possible for me to change my decision even if I am requested to do so."

He however said none communicated with him till 8:30pm. "I must welcome if anybody wants to visit my residence. But I will not change my decision," he added.

Talking to this correspondent, Sultana Kamal said nobody contacted her till 8.40pm. "I will not change my decision unless the prevailing situation changes," she said replying to a question.

Shafi Sami last night told The Daily Star that some advisers visited his residence and enquired about the reasons for his resignation.

Meanwhile, the president had earlier unilaterally decided twice to deploy army, appointed two election commissioners, allegedly forced the Election Commission (EC) to announce the election schedule hurriedly and addressed the nation, keeping all the advisers in the dark about those. Such actions triggered a wave of controversy and deepened the political stalemate.

Amid such a situation, the council of advisers in a last ditch effort to resolve the political crisis prepared a package of proposals last week after a series of hectic meetings between the advisers and the two major political alliances.

The proposals include reconstitution of the EC by sending election commissioners SM Zakaria and Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury on leave and appointing new election commissioners, transfer of secretaries, rescheduling of the announced election schedule and correction of errors of the updated voter list.

The package proposal had rekindled hopes for an amicable resolution of the dispute as the BNP also agreed with it and the Awami League led 14-party started moving towards election, shunning street agitation.

But things suddenly began to change for the worse. The BNP-led four-party alliance appeared opposed to sending Zakaria on leave and the president on Wednesday last emerged adamantly opposed to steps to make Zakaria take time off work.

The advisers however kept continuing their effort to reach an amicable solution to the issue of recasting the EC through further negotiation with the political parties.

But the discussions among the advisers to implement the package proposals fully virtually fizzled out on Saturday night when the president decided on his own to deploy the armed forces, ignoring strong objections from all the 10 advisors.

On the prevailing situation, observers said the political scene appears to have worsened and uncertainty is looming large over holding the next parliamentary election in a free and fair manner with the participation of all major political parties.

Referring to the election schedule announced on November 27, they said the country has yet to witness the election fever due to the political deadlock. The political situation is not congenial for holding a free and fair election. The president/CA in his address to the nation on Sunday night could not assure the nation of free and fair polls, rather his address triggered controversy, they added.

From left: Akbar Ali Khan,Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, Sultana Kamal and CM Shafi Sami