Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response
DHAKA: Thursday’s dialogue between the ruling alliance of 14 parties led by the Awami League and the Oikya Front, the new opposition alliance, received a mixed reception in Bangladesh’s political circles. The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is a key player in the front, said, “We are not satisfied with how the talks went.” However, his close ally, the front leader and Gonoforum President, Dr. Kamal Hossain, said, “We have placed our demands and the Prime Minister will inform us about her final decision later.”
Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of ruling Awami League and the second in command of the party, quoted the Prime Minister, saying, “The door is open and we can sit again later.”
The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands, which included: The formation of non-partisan election period government, the resignation of the incumbent government and dissolution of the parliament; the release of political prisoners, including BNP chairwoman Khaleda Zia, and the withdrawal of false cases filed against political activists; the reformation of the Election Commission and the abandonment of the Electronic Voting Machine for this election, ensuring a level playing field for all political parties; and the deployment of army during the election, to allow the foreign and domestic observers to witness the election process.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina immediately agreed on the two points regarding ensuring the level playing field for all political parties and the presence of foreign election observers.
S.M. Rejaul Karim, Legal Affairs Secretary of the ruling Awami League, said to Arab News, “We had the discussion in a very congenial and cordial environment. The Prime Minister has accepted the issue of a ensuring level playing field and the presence of international election observers during the election, and I think it was a fruitful discussion.”
During the meeting Prime Minister assured the opposition that her government will facilitate the election commission in every way to hold a free, fair and inclusive election, said Karim.
“After the meeting I strongly believe that the opposition will get much more confidence and take part in the upcoming election. As a result the country will experience an election with festivity in a democratic environment,” opined Karim.
However the opposition alliance leader Dr. Kamal said, “The prime minister gave a long speech. But we didn’t find any specific solution there, except for some positive comments about holding rallies and meetings.”
BNP secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam said his party will continue the street protests to achieve their demands.
Islam and his party were disappointed that the PM rejected their demand for the release of Khaleda Zia. She had said that the government could do nothing since it’s a legal matter. Hasina also said that her government did not file the cases against Zia.
Dr. Ataur Rahman, a renowned political scientist and teacher of Dhaka University, said to Arab News, “Although it is not completely satisfying the dialogue has opened the door for the opposition parties and they have got assurances that some of the demands will be fulfilled. Now the opposition should wait and watch the situation.”
He analyzed it as a “wheeling and dealing” situation where both the parties will try to win the maximum gain. “I think in the coming days there will be few more surprises in the political arena till the submission of nomination papers for the election race,” added Rahman.
Kashem Humayun, a veteran journalist and managing editor of Bangla Daily Sangbad, says to Arab News, “Government can’t do anything contrary to the constitution and the situation in this term is quite different from the last election held in 2014. I believe that the main opposition BNP will take part in the election.”
He added: “If any change is required in the constitution that should be done in parliament, and for that reason also BNP should join the election race.”