Dhaka: As Bangladesh reeled under a violent political stand-off between ruling Awami League and opposition BNP and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e-Islami, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday sent a strong message to the country's political parties to stick to democratic values and rule of law.
He also sent out an unequivocal signal to political parties back home about building a consensus on the twin issues of Teesta river water-sharing and land boundary agreement, which have come unstuck due to differences among political parties in India in order to improve relations with Bangladesh and ensure it remains a secular democracy. Mukherjee said Bangladesh embraced democracy largely due to the values and principles its people held dear during their liberation war and the people know, "better than anyone else, that democracy means the ability to respect differences, respect for the rule of law and building strong institutions along with free speech and a vibrant media."
Mukherjee, 77, was speaking after being conferred an honorary doctorate degree in law by the prestigious Dhaka University. Mukherjee's remarks came even as the 48-hour general strike called by fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami to protest trial of its top leaders for war crimes during the liberation Bangladesh liberation war in 1971 was marred by stray violence across the country leaving 4 persons, including a teenaged boy, were killed in Satkhira and Sirajganj districts. The future of democracy in Bangladesh and elections also figured in Mukherjee's separate talks with a cross section of Bangladesh politicians including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her ruling coalition ally Jatiya Party chief H M Ershad and pro-Left Workers Party chief Rashed Khan Menon.
The issue of uncertainty over the fate of next general elections in Bangladesh, scheduled for later this year, figured in the talks as ruling Awami League led by Hasina is locked in a bitter tussle with the BNP and Jamaat on the issue of holding the polls under a neutral caretaker government.