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    Dhaka wants to restore 1972 constitution

    Dhaka 8 (IANS): The Bangladesh government wants to "restore the constitution" framed in 1972, a year after independence, to reinforce the spirit of secularism, rule of law, human rights and democracy, a minister said.

    Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed said his ministry would take steps to restore the 1972 constitution "in order to re-establish the spirits of secularism, the great liberation war, rule of law, human rights and democracy in the country".

    "As a lawyer and human rights activist I have certain commitments to the people. The government is also committed to restore the constitution of 1972. If those commitments are fulfilled, the religious militancy and terrorism that emerged in recent years in the country will be rooted out," he told The Daily Star newspaper.

    Ahmed's comments come amid accusations of a rise in religious militancy and growth of terrorist outfits, especially since 2001, when religious minorities and political opponents of the government were targeted.

    The Khaleda Zia government (2001-06), that had Islamist allies sharing power, remained in a state of denial till there was an outcry at home and the US Congress threatened economic sanctions.

    The Zia government proscribed four of the 29 Islamist outfits and brought to book some of its leaders like Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai.

    The caretaker government that ruled for nearly two years (2007-08) sought to curb these organisations.

    Bangladesh's 1972 constitution upheld the four principles of nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism.

    The regime of president Ziaur Rahman replaced "secularism" with the expression "by the grace of Almighty Allah".

    Bangladesh is a Muslim majority nation of 140 million.

    Shafique Ahmed said his ministry will take all necessary legal steps to try the war criminals who committed genocide, rape and torture against the people of the country during the liberation war in 1971.

    The war criminals should be tried in the special tribunal under the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973, he said.

    "War criminals" are those who collaborated with then East Pakistan Government in the killing of unarmed civilians during the 1971 freedom struggle.

    They allegedly include top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party, part of the alliance led by Zia that fared badly in last month's poll.


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