Law Minister Anisul Huq on Sunday said the Election Commission (EC) has taken it as a challenge to hold a transparent, neutral and peaceful election in the country.
"Various decisions have been taken to overcome the challenges," he said while responding to a tabled question from Gonoforum MP Mukabbir Khan.
The minister said that the EC is already taking necessary steps to make the upcoming 12th parliamentary elections free, fair, impartial and acceptable.
The EC has already held discussions with the civil society, media representatives, academics, election experts, election observers and registered political parties to conduct the elections in a fair and orderly manner within the stipulated time.
The minister also said the commission is active with the aim of conducting a neutral and acceptable election in line with the constitution, RPO, various existing laws and realities.
Stating that the EC is committed to holding a participatory election with all registered political parties.
"In order to keep the election process transparent, the Election Commission would publish all the activities related to the election on the website for everyone's information, appoint a sufficient number of local and foreign observers, allow electronic and print media journalists to receive news freely," the minister said.
The EC is determined to ensure that the results of the election are acceptable to all voters and most of the political parties, he added.
He said the EC should treat all candidates in an impartial and fair manner, appoint more qualified officers of the EC as returning officers, appoint neutral presiding and assistant presiding officers, discharge from the duty subject to proof of bias against anyone who is carrying out the duties of the election.
He said the authorities must take disciplinary action as per election laws and rules, maintain law and order situation before election, election day and post-election, ensure that candidates or supporters comply with election code of conduct, take prompt legal action against violators of law and rule, and ensure all candidates obey code of conduct.
The minister said the recommendations made by the majority of the people in the consultation meeting with prominent citizens and political parties should be implemented according to the constitution and electoral law by the EC.
He said the EC would propose to the government that all political parties may conduct their election campaigns without interruption and not to be prosecuted by any agency of the government.
In response to a question from Jatiya Party's Moshiur Rahman Ranga, the Law Minister said that the EC has taken the initiative of conducting activities in 16 countries to provide voter registration and national identity cards to Bangladeshi citizens living abroad.
He said with the aim of providing voter registration and national identity cards to Bangladeshi citizens living abroad, the EC has started the experimental registration process in the United Arab Emirates on May 31 at the Embassy and on June 12 at the Dubai Consulate.
"So far 336 national identity cards (smart cards) have been issued to expatriates. Biometrics of 4,357 expatriate voters have been accepted and National Identity Cards of 1,559 eligible voters are under process," he said.
The minister said the EC has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct the registration process of 15 countries.
"Among these, the consent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been obtained regarding the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Italy."
Necessary communication and coordination are being done through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Bangladesh High Commission, London and Bangladesh Embassy, Riyadh as part of the preparatory activities for the purpose of registration of expatriate Bangladeshis living in Saudi Arabia from October 1, 2023 and in the United Kingdom from October 9, 2023.
According to the decision of the Election Commission, the proposal to start the voter registration of Kuwait, Qatar and Malaysia with the consent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the consent of the said three countries has not yet been received.
Khaleda's conditional release to be extended by 6 months: Law minister
The law ministry has given its opinion in favour of extending BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's jail sentence suspension by another six months on the existing two conditions, said Law Minister Anisul Huq on Sunday.
"The law ministry has given its opinion for extending Khaleda's jail term suspension period by another six months on the existing conditions. Already the opinion of the ministry has been sent to the Home Ministry," he said while talking to reporters at the secretariat.
With this, Khaleda's jail sentence suspension will be extended for the eight time.
The current jail sentence suspension will expire on September 24.
Replying to a question about the petition BNP submitted seeking permission to allow Khaleda Zia to go abroad, the minister said, "There is no scope to give her the permission and if there was any legal scope, we would consider it."
The government accepted all the previous applications but did not give Khaleda permission to go abroad for treatment.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government temporarily freed Khaleda Zia from jail through an executive order by suspending her sentence on March 25, 2020, with conditions that she would stay at her Gulshan house and would not leave the country. Since then, her release term has been extended every six months following the family's plea.
The government has so far extended the convicted former prime minister's conditional release seven times, with the last extension on March 12, 2023.
Khaleda was sent to the Old Dhaka Central Jail as a lower court sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018. Later, she was found guilty and convicted in another corruption case the same year.
Khaleda, a 78-year-old former prime minister, has long been suffering from various ailments, including liver cirrhosis, arthritis, diabetes, kidney, lung, heart, eye problems and post-Covid complications.