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Hasina takes oath as MP

October 27, 2001

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DHAKA, Oct 26: A new phase in Bangladesh politics has begun following the parliamentary oath taking by the opposition Awami League president Sheikh Hasina and her colleagues on Oct 24. After the oath-taking ceremony, Hasina told newsmen that their joining the parliament session would “depend on the gestures of the government.”

What does she mean by this “gesture” of the government? Senior parliamentarian and AL Presidium member Suranjit Sengupta MP explained: “...The government has to prove, by practical gestures, that it really wants the opposition to come to parliament”. Sengupta was former Prime Minister’s advisor of parliamentary affairs.

However, AL insiders say that the party will wait and watch the government’s attitude towards the portrait of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, special security for Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana and alleged corruption of the members of the AL government. Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet had also allotted the Gonobhaban, the Prime Minister’s official residence, for her to live permanently.

The AL government had also enacted law mandating people to display Mujib’s portrait and made it punishable for being disrespectful to his portraits. They have also enacted another law to provide Sheikh Hasina and her sister special security suitable for a visiting foreign VIP for life.

In her maiden address to the nation last week, Begum Khaleda Zia asked all political activists not to ‘disrespect’ any portrait but did not mention anything about the special security arrangements for the two sisters. Sheikh Rehana lives in her own house in London. During her election campaign, Zia said that if her party comes to power, she would ‘ensure better security arrangement than what the Leader of the Opposition is entitled to.’

Soon after the election result was announced Sheikh Hasina had rejected the same and demanded a fresh poll. However, under pressure from the party members, she subsequently relented, saying that her party would neither take oath nor attend parliament.

Analysts consider it as a positive development and good both for herself and her party. If she had shown inflexibility, it would have harmed the AL itself more than the government. The people, who came out in droves and voted against terrorism and lawlessness, do not seem to believe that the election was rigged as Hasina claims, they added.