Fundamentalist Party Pledges to Make Bangladesh Islamic Republic
The fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party has pledged to turn Bangladesh into an Islamic state if it is voted into power at the next election.
"Bangladesh will be declared as an Islamic Republic on the basis of the sovereignty of the almighty Allah," the party's manifesto, released late Friday, said.
Jamaat is contesting the October 1 election as part of a four-party alliance led by Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and is unlikely to be able to push through its policies, even if it wins seats.
But Jamaat leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, said the party issued a separate policy document despite being part of the alliance "to make our ideological stand clear".
The party, which opposed Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, said its Islamic policies would include redistributing wealth, ending corruption and stopping prostitution.
"The armed forces would be imbued with Islamic spirit of Jihad (holy war) to defend the country, while military training will be made compulsory for those between 18 and 45 years old," the manifesto said.
Bangladesh is a secular state, although its population is predominantly Muslim. Islam is the state religion.
Last week the alliance announced the number of seats to be contested by each party, with the BNP having 251, the Jamaat receiving 30 seats and 18 given to the other two parties.
If the BNP-led alliance were to win the election, members of the Jamaat party would be given cabinet posts, but it is unlikely that it would be able to introduce its hardline policies.
The BNP and the former ruling Awami League party were expected to announce their election manifestos in the coming week, party officials said.
Nomination papers for candidates had to be filed by Wednesday. After two days of scrutiny the election commission announced that 2,410 candidate nomination papers were found valid, but 143 were cancelled for various reasons -- mainly bad bank loans.
They included 10 from BNP and five from the Awami League.
Bangladeshi banks have recovered more than 500 million taka (8.62 million dollars) worth of bad loans in the past few days as candidates have cleared their dues in order not to be banned by the election commission.
Those defaulting on loans are not allowed to contest elections, although they are allowed to stand if they reschedule their loans and pay 10 percent of the total amount due -- DHAKA (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)