I’m not ill: Ershad

Says he was 'confined' to hospital, not allowed to quit election race

Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad was apparently not allowed to quit the January 5 electoral race as three returning officers yesterday rejected his applications for withdrawal of candidature.
Yesterday was the last day for withdrawing nominations for the 10th parliamentary polls.
JP sources said the refusal to accept Ershad’s applications indicates that the government is desperate to keep the JP in the polls race to endorse the acceptability of the election.
Ershad, who was picked up on Thursday night from his Baridhara residence by law enforcers, however, reiterated that he will never contest the election if it is not contested by all political parties.
In a statement last night, the former president said, “I’m not ill. I’ve been confined here [Combined Military Hospital] in the name of treatment for arrest.”
Apart from picking up Ershad, the government has taken various measures, including withdrawal of nomination papers of ruling Awami League nominees from about 40 parliamentary seats to ensure win for JP lawmaker aspirants.
JP presidium member Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu lobbied another presidium member Raushan Ershad and some other top JP leaders for contesting the election. To ensure win for Bablu, AL lawmaker from Chittagong-9 (Kotwali-Bakalia) Nurul Islam BSc has withdrawn his nomination paper, said party sources.
Bablu was made an adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on November 18, when an “election-time cabinet” was formed.
Bablu along with another JP leader Anisul Islam Mahmud, a minister in the interim cabinet, is believed to have taken an initiative to convince Raushan to lead the JP to the election if Ershad stays away from the polls.
Except for Bablu, Anisul and Raushan, all other JP nominees have withdrawn their nomination papers on the directives of Ershad.
The prime minister phoned Nurul Islam BSc on Thursday night and asked him to withdraw his nomination paper.
“In my application to the divisional commissioner, I’ve mentioned that I am withdrawing my nomination paper on instructions of the prime minister,” the lawmaker told The Daily Star.
“As I belong to a political party and its chief has asked me to withdraw the nomination paper, I’ve decided to abide by her decision,” he added.
Another AL legislator Sanjida Begum told reporters that she had to withdraw her nomination paper on party directives.
Meanwhile, four JP candidates are set to be elected unopposed as the AL nominees withdrew their nominations in four constituencies, said Election Commission sources.
The returning officer of Lalmonirhat refused to accept the application of JP leader GM Quader for withdrawal of candidature.
On behalf of Ershad and Quader, JP presidium member Mashiur Rahman Ranga yesterday submitted nomination withdrawal applications to the returning officer. But returning officer Habibur Rahman refused to accept those saying that Ranga could not produce any power of attorney from HM Ershad and GM Quader.
Ranga, however, refuted the claim made by the polls official.
Habibur told this newspaper that the applications were not filed within the RPO (Representation of the People Order) guidelines.
A group of JP leaders, including Bablu and Anisul, last night had a meeting with Raushan Ershad at her Gulshan residence to discuss their next course of action on joining the polls, party sources said.
AL leader Tofail Ahmed and PM’s adviser Gowher Rizvi were present.
Meantime, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir last night accused the government of “arresting Ershad as he has been staying away from the one-sided and stage-managed election.”
The BNP leader in a press statement demanded the government release the JP chief immediately.