Monday, July 14, 2008

Islamists in Bangladesh opposes women as heads of state, government

Dhaka (IANS)

Women should be debarred from holding office as heads of government or state, an Islamist party has said in Bangladesh, where women have headed governments between 1991 and 2006. The election law should be amended to make women ineligible to hold these offices, the Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan (BKA) Saturday told a government panel led by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, currently holding a dialogue with political parties.

Ahmed performs prime ministerial functions in a caretaker government holding office since January last year.

“We have told the government to take measures so that men hold the top executive positions and no woman assumes the responsibility of head of state or government,” BKA secretary general Muhammad Zafrullah Khan at a joint press conference along with Ahmed and his advisors.

The BKA is a fringe party in electoral terms but is said to enjoy grassroot support among the rural masses in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Despite its conservative political stance, the BKA entered into an electoral alliance in December 2006 with the centrist Awami League, led by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who heads a 14-party alliance that includes the communists.

For striking a deal with the BKA, Hasina faced serious criticism from the alliance and from within her own Awami League, before the elections were called off.

Women have always enjoyed prominence in Bengal, before and after the creation of East Pakistan, which eventually became Bangladesh in 1971.

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