Protest in Bangladesh against Hard-line Islamic Poll Candidates
About 2,000 people protested Saturday over fears that Bangladesh could be transformed into a Taliban-style hard-line Islamic state following the country's October 1 election.
The demonstrators, including relatives of six celebrated fallen veterans of Bangladesh's war of independence against Pakistan, formed a human chain here in protest against Muslim fundamentalist candidates standing in Monday's poll.
Islamist parties are contesting 37 seats in the election for the 300-seat parliament in the Muslim-majority country, under a four-party alliance headed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
The protestors said candidates of the alliance's Jamaat-e-Islami party and the right-wing Islami Oikkya Jote would undermine secularism, remove democracy and withdraw women's basic rights if elected.
"The identified anti-liberation forces and collaborators of Pakistan are trying to capture state power in the name of the four-party alliance," they said in a published appeal.
They warned that "if these forces are voted to power, the lives sacrificed by the... freedom fighters will be meaningless".
The collaboration by some of the Islamists with the Pakistani army during the 1971 conflict is chief among the grievances of secularists and war veterans.
Islamists expect this election will put them into government for the first time, sparking concern among liberals who fear a further erosion of Bangladesh's founding principle of secularism.
Bangladesh established itself as a secular state after its bloody split from Pakistan, but secularism was scrapped four years later by leaders of a military coup who also legalized Islamist groups such as the anti-independence Jamaat-e-Islami. Islam is the state religion -- DHAKA (AFP)
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