By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA Jan. 8, Reuter: Bangladesh’s largest opposition party, the Awami League, has warned of possible bloodshed if President Hossain Mohammad Ershad clings to power, defying popular demands for his resignation.

“The consequences of playing ducks and drakes with the fate of the poor people are bound to be bitter and awful….and we warn the country faces an impending danger of bloodshed as Ershad tries to stay in power by tricks”, a party statement said on Thursday night.

It said persistent refusal by Ershad to resign despite months of countrywide protests was pushing Bangladesh towards a “monstrous crisis” and urged him to transfer power to a caretaker government to hold free and fair elections to establish flawless democracy.

Addressing a party meeting on Thursday, League leader Sheikh Hasina asked Ershad to demonstrate “good sense” by quitting power.

“Any sort of gamem with the licking fire is dangerous and does not deliver good to anybody”, she said in reference to government plans to hold new elections with Out participation of the major opposition groups.

Ershad, who seized power in a bloodless coup in March, 1982, but restored civil rule in November 1986, following disputed Parliamentary and Presidential polls, has said’ he will not step down under pressure.

He imposed a state of emergency on November 27 to the wart the antigovernment campaign by 21 opposition parties and dissolved the 330member Parliament on December 6 to prepare for fresh elections now set for February 28.

Hasina described the poll plans as a “dangling carrot” intended to perpetuate Ershad’s power and said “no patriotic citizen will support his dishonest and corrupt government”.

The other main opposition leader, Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairman Begum Khaleda Zia, said “People are now united on one demand the ouster of Ershad. They will wrest victory at all costs”.

In a statement to the press, she urged all “peace and democracy loving forces to resist farcical elections tooth and nail”.

The two leaders are due to begin a cross country tour next week to ask people to frustrate the Parliamentary polls and the rural union council elections to be held from February 11 to 17.

The Opposition organized 16 days of general strikes in the past two months, which the government said cost the country more than 700 million dollars in production and exports. They are again planning dawn to dusk stoppages on January 20 and 21.

So far, only fringe opposition parties, many of them never heard of previously, have agreed to participate in the February 28 vote.

Diplomats, and even some leaders of Ershad’s Jatiya Party, feel elections held without the participation of major parties would risk the government’s credibility with aid donors.

Meanwhile, the government on Friday withdrew an order to reopen the Chittagong University in Southern Bangladesh after 14 people were injured in a bomb and gun battle between pro and antigovernment students on Wednesday night.

Four universities, including Chittagong, were closed on November 27 when Ershad imposed the state of emergency but Education Minister Mahbubur Rahman said on Monday they would be reopened by January 14.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 15, 1988