DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 14, (AP): A small party led by a prominent Bangladeshi lawyer on Saturday forged a new alliance with the country’s main opposition party that could be seen as a boost against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government ahead of national elections due in December.
Kamal Hossain announced at a news conference in Bangladesh’s capital that he was building the alliance with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is serving a prison sentence for a corruption conviction.
Top leaders from Zia’s party and leaders from two smaller parties were present during Hossain’s announcement of the National Unity Front. Zia is an archrival of Hasina who seeks to return to power for a third time amid opposition allegations that the next elections could be rigged unless a nonparty election-time caretaker government is in place.
Zia’s elder son, who is the heir apparent, was recently convicted of conspiracy over a grisly grenade attack on a political rally in 2004 and was sentenced to life in prison. The son, Tarique Rahman, lives in London and would be arrested if he returned to Bangladesh. Meanwhile, an influential body of newspaper editors in Bangladesh on Saturday criticized the government for a new digital security law that they say will stifle constitutionally protected freedom of speech and curtail press freedom.
Members of the Editors’ Council told a news conference in the nation’s capital, Dhaka, that they were not pleased that the bill was made a law despite their objections. President Abdul Hamid approved the bill, known as the Digital Security Act, despite promises by three Cabinet ministers and an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that they would address the journalists’ concerns about some disputed provisions. Shyamal Dutt, editor of the Bhorer Kagoj daily, said protesters would form a human chain in Dhaka on Monday to demand changes to the law.
The Editors’ Council had postponed a street protest last month after the country’s information minister said officials would look into the journalists’ concerns. “There is a Parliament session soon. We hope they will keep their promises and change some provisions,” Dutt said at Saturday’s news conference. “Our points are very clear, but they did not keep their promises.” Talking to The Associated Press after the news conference, Dutt said that the council was not against any cyber security law, but that keeping any ambiguities in the law that would hurt press freedom is not acceptable.