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Dhaka Tribune

Opposition unlikely to end boycott of parliament

Update : 21 Apr 2013, 03:15 AM

 

The 17th session of Bangladesh’s National Parliament starts today but the opposition BNP continues to boycott parliament.

The short session scheduled to end on April 30, has one key agenda, which is to elect the next president of Bangladesh, following the death of President Zillur Rahman on March 20.

However, concerns have been raised due to the small voting stake in the parliament, and BNP has already stated they will not be nominating any candidates for the president, which indicates the chances of them joining parliament is relatively low.

However, opposition MPs also risk losing their seats because memberships may be cancelled, if a mid-June deadline is not met. As per a constitutional clause MPs can be absent from parliament only for 90 consecutive days.

“Our party is unlikely to join the next session as there is no atmosphere to attend parliament,” Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, a member of BNP’s national standing committee, the highest policymaking forum told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday. He reiterated that with five parliamentarians in jail – including chief whip Zainul Abdin Farroque, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Moudud Ahmed, Barkatullah Bulu and Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Anee, it was not possible. He added, “The government could have granted them bail to create a friendly atmosphere.”

41 opposition MPs – 38 from BNP, two from Jamaat-e-Islami and one from Bangladesh Jatiya Party – have boycotted parliament since last March. The leader of the opposition and BNP chief Khaleda Zia has not attended Sangsad sessions for 75 consecutive working days since March 20, last year.

According to the parliament secretariat, the 17th session has eight working days and ends on April 30.  If Khaleda Zia continues the boycott, her record of consecutive absence from parliament will stand at 83 days.

The next budget session is scheduled for first week of June and will continue to mid-July. The sessions tend to consist of around 30 working days. If the opposition continue to avoid attending during the next session then they will have been absent for 113 days, and their memberships will be cancelled.

This is the third longest boycott of parliament by the opposition and allies after the ninth parliament was elected. They first walked out in June 2009, and on June 2, 2010, the MPs along with Khaleda Zia did return briefly only to preserve their membership, and went back to the boycott right after. The next round of boycotts ended when the MPs, except Khaleda Zia, joined on March 18 last year, but after the BNP chief came to parliament on March 20, the third boycott began.

Parliament is set to dissolve on October 25 this year, and new elections will be held on January 25, 2014, if it runs as scheduled.

The Business Advisory Committee will finalise the length of the 17th session for presidential elections on July 29. If Abdul Hamid is elected President, the session must elect a new Speaker.

The ruling Awami League will hold a meeting of its parliamentarian at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

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