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Oikya Front drafting manifesto pledging to stop 'gunfights'

  • Published at 01:42 pm December 3rd, 2018
File photo of Jatiya Oikya Front leaders Dhaka Tribune

The alliance says the manifesto will be finalized shortly

Jatiya Oikya Front has almost finalized its draft manifesto—focusing on issues including education, health care, the judiciary, freedom of speech, and public security.  

The panel assigned to draft the manifesto is set to place it before the steering committee on Monday.

Once approved by the steering committee, the opposition alliance will set a date to unveil the manifesto. 

“The manifesto will be finalized by Tuesday,” said Zafrullah Chowdhury, the chief of the panel tasked with drafting the manifesto. 

Senior journalist Mahfuzullah, who is a panel member, said they will finalize the manifesto in a couple of days. 

“The panel comprises representatives of all [Oikya Front] components,” he said, adding that they are preparing the manifesto adhering to the proposals of all parties.

Problems drafting the manifesto

Panel members are facing some hurdles in drafting the manifesto. 

BNP has not yet clarified whether it will announce a separate manifesto on behalf of 20-Party Alliance—that it leads. 

Additionally, one of the panel members has proposed including some new issues which may divide opinion, not only among the coalition members, but also the public. 

The Alliance is concerned by the view of  its leader, Dr Kamal, on constitutional amendments.

A senior BNP leader, preferring to remain anonymous, said though they have disagreed with Dr Kamal about some issues, the Alliance chief has agreed to amending articles 55, 69, and 70 of the constitution.   

Krishak Sramik Janata League President Kader Siddique said the alliance will try to create a balance of power if elected to power.

“Dr Kamal said the country will run in line with the Constitution. The problem arises when we do not follow it. A balance of power between the power of the president and prime minister is required. It will be one of our electoral pledges,” he said. 

What is in the manifesto? 

According to the draft manifesto the key issues include: citizens’ security, measures to stop arrests by plainclothes policemen, extrajudicial killings, scrapping the Digital Security Act, and reducing the backlog of cases. 

“If Jatiya Oikya Front takes office it will stop ‘gunfights’ on the very first day. A commission will be formed to amend the constitution,” said manifesto panel member Iqbal Siddiqui. 

Other pledges include: ensuring a standard education system, scrapping public exams like the Primary Education Certificate and Junior School Certificate for fifth and eighth graders respectively, holding a centralized admission test for all public universities, and holding student union elections in all academic institutes—within a year of taking office. 

The alliance will emphasize ensuring a balance of power and decentralizing the administration. 

“We will create a balance of power by recruiting 50% of parliamentary committee members from the opposition. We will formulate a law to bring the change. The deputy speaker will also be from the opposition,” said Zafrullah Chowdhury, the chief of the manifesto panel. 

He said they will also include a law barring a prime minister from serving two consecutive terms. The power of the president will be boosted and the president will not have to consult the prime minister. 

In the manifesto the alliance might also pledge to bring back the provision for referenda. 

“We will create a commission to form the provincial administration. It is not possible to govern a country of 170-180 million people from Dhaka,” said Zafrullah—also the founder of Ganashyastho Kendra. 

However, a panel member said that BNP objects regarding issues of provincial administration and barring the prime minister from serving two consecutive terms.

The electoral pledge might also include lifting the age limit in government jobs – except for the police and armed forces–; an allowance for unemployed youths over 30 years old; and recruiting for all vacant government jobs posts—within three years of assuming power. 

The manifesto includes bringing the perpetrators of bank and stock market scams to justice—but some panel members doubt whether it will appear in the final manifesto. 

Other pledges include: security for women, road safety, food safety, and programs to alleviate poverty. 

During a BNP council held in 2016, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia pledged to create a balance of power between the president and the prime minister. 

She said, if elected to power, her party will take measures to convert the parliament into two houses. 

The former prime minister also pledged to probe all extrajudicial killings and deaths inside prisons. 

When was Oikya Front formed? 

Dr Kamal, the chief of Gono Forum, launched Jatiya Oikya Front on October 13 with BNP, ASM Abdur Rab-led Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Mahmudur Rahman Manna-led Nagorik Oikya, and Jatiya Oikys Prokriya.

Later, Kader Siddique joined the coalition. 

The alliance participated in two dialogues with the ruling Awami League in the first week of November. 

Following the dialogues, it decided to participate in the upcoming 11th general election slated for December 30. 

The coalition also announced that it will use BNP’s sheaf of paddy as its electoral symbol. 

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