US official to visit Bangladesh to review political situation

Dhaka, Sept 16: A senior official from the United States will visit Bangladesh, now under a state of emergency, on Tuesday to take stock of the country's progress on roadmap towards “democratic elections” which is likely to take place by the end of next year.

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, John A Gastright Jr., is expected to stay here for two days to discuss matters of bilateral interest, according to a press statement issued by the US embassy here today.

"During his visit, he will hold discussions with senior government officials and members of civil society on a wide-range of bilateral issues, in particular progress on the road map toward democratic elections by the end of 2008," said the statement.

This would be the first ever visit of an official from the US after the country's army-led interim administration launched a massive anti-corruption drive and the security forces detained more than 150 politicians, including the country's two former Prime Ministers—Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia—who ruled the impoverished nation for 16 years since the fall of a military dictator in 1990.

The interim administration of Fakhruddin Ahmed also got support from the Bush Administration for what it says launching an offensive against corruption and political reforms in Bangladesh, where political and civil rights have been suspended with the promulgation of a state of emergency in January on the heels of political turmoil. The proclamation of the emergency suspended the country's ninth parliamentary election, which was originally scheduled for January 22.

Earlier, John A. Gastright visited Bangladesh in December 2006. During his stay this time he's expected to meet the top officials in the government, and the military as well.   

Gastright's portfolio focuses on Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  

“He looks forward to productive and positive meetings during his stay," said the release. (With Inputs from ANI)