Khaleda plans to add 150 seats to JS
Ahmadiyyas wont be dubbed as non-Muslim;
50 reserved berths for women
The four-party ruling alliance in a landmark decision yesterday unveiled a plan to raise the Jatiya Sangsad (JS) seats to 450, including 50 reserved for women, to keep pace with the rising population.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia presented the plan at a meeting of top alliance leaders at her office, saying a bill proposing to raise the number of lawmakers from 300 would be passed in the upcoming session slated to begin on January 18.
In another development, she rejected the demand of a section of Islamic fanatics for declaration of the Ahmadiyya sect as non-Muslim, meeting sources said.
But the meeting did not touch on law and order, price spiral of essentials, allegations of corruption, Communications Minister Nazmul Hudas call to recast a parliamentary sub-committee and former president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhurys and Dr Kamal Hossains moves to put up a third political force.
Revealing the JS expansion plan, Khaleda said 400 lawmakers will be elected in direct votes while the 50 reserved seats would be distributed proportionately among parties having representation in parliament.
A party commanding at least eight lawmakers in parliament will have a woman legislator, she explained.
A bill providing for the reserved seats would be passed in the current parliament and elections to the enhanced general seats will be held in the next parliamentary polls scheduled for 2006.
Replying to a question by Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP) Secretary General Kazi Firoz Rashid, Khaleda said her intention was to raise the JS seats to 500 in line with a poll pledge, but a study showed a maximum of 450 lawmakers could be accommodated without changing the structure of the House.
We dont want to make any architectural change in the House, an alliance leader quoted the prime minister as saying.
Currently, the Jatiya Sangsad can seat 354 legislators.
The process to enhance JS seats from 300 to 450 is almost final and a bill is likely to be placed at the next cabinet meeting for approval, BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan told The Daily Star yesterday.
Firoz Rashid said: The prime minister told the meeting that a bill providing for the enhanced JS seats would be passed in the upcoming JS session. The move is aimed at keeping pace with the rising population.
The 300-member parliament was suitable for the seven crore population what has virtually doubled over the years, a meeting source quoted Khaleda as saying.
The premier also hinted at the passage of another bill proposing for hanging of the portraits of the heads of state and government at public offices.
BJP Chairman Naziur Rahman Manjur reminded the prime minister of her commitment in the Jatiya Sangsad to hang the portraits of national leaders, including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, at government offices.
Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid objected to Manjurs remarks, saying his party would not support any move to hang Mujibs portrait at government offices.
You (Jamaat) are controversial as razakars for your opposition to the War of Liberation. You dont have any right to suggest anything about the Bangabandhu, an incensed Manjur thundered on hearing Mujahids comments.
Khaleda and other key leaders kept silent, but BNP Standing Committee Member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain stepped in to restore calm.
After the debate, Khaleda said the portraits of all former presidents and national leaders were at Bangabhaban and they could be hanged in Bangladesh missions abroad to enable foreigners to know them.
She said the portraits of the president and prime minister would be hanged at government offices and the portrait of no one would be hanged permanently.
The prime minister rejected the demand of anti-Ahmadiyya agitators to declare the sect non-Muslim when Islami Oikya Jote Chairman Azizul Haq raised the issue at the meeting.
Meeting sources said coalition partners, especially the BJP and IOJ, were unhappy as the prime minister declined to discuss other issues at the two-hour meeting.
Some alliance leaders raised the issue of Awami Leagues (AL) ultimatum to the government to step down, but the premier appeared less concerned over the opposition threat.
We have nothing to fear. Dont read too much into Awami Leagues threat. The alliance did not take office banking on the AL vote, she said.