Rival parties of Bangladesh asked to have dialogue

Opposition BNP's acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir addresses workers and supporters at a meeting in front of party central office in Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka.

Dhaka — After a series of diplomatic  maneuvering  and  pressure  from  the donor community,  the ruling   party and  the opposition in Bangladesh have started  talking  about   “dialogue”  which appears  to be  remote  possibility in  the present  political  context.

The ruling  Awami League wants a dialogue about  holding the next general  elections  while  the  opposition alliance  led  by  Bangladesh nationalist party (BNP)  favours  a  dialogue  on  the   care-taker  government  system that  had  been  recently discarded  from  the  constitution.

However, it is yet to be made clear  whether  it  is going  to  be  a  national  dialogue   involving  all  the stakeholders  or  a party level dialogue.

In case of party level dialogue, ruling  Awami league  have  strong  objection  against  Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh,  the  religious-based  party presently  in  alliance  with BNP. The ruling party   had already shown  their  objections   against  Jamaat  by  excluding  it  from previous  dialogue  initiated  by  the Election Commission  in spite  of  the fact  that  Jamaat is a registered  political party having  representation in  the present parliament.

However, it is  certain  that  the  next course  of  political actions in  Bangladesh  would be  dominated by  “dialogue” debates  involving  the  ruling  party  and  the opposition . An  exercise  with  dialogue is needed to contain the demands of opposition and  also  save  the  ruling  Awami League from its majority  party whims,  the  donors observe. 

Diplomatic quarters have been suggesting for holding talks ever since the ruling coalition and the opposition took diametrically opposite stance on the issue of caretaker government.

While visiting Bangladesh last week,   US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged all political actors in Bangladesh to settle their differences through dialogue and plan for holding the next general election in a free, fair and credible manner.
 “We urge all political actors to work together regardless of their differences. All political actors must work together for constructive dialogue so that democracy gets sustained path,” she said at a joint press briefing in Dhaka after a 75-minute meeting with her counterpart Dipu Moni.
The European Union on Wednesday also joined the United States in calling the major parties in Bangladesh for a political dialogue.

Head of the EU delegation, Ambassador William Hanna advocated talks between the ruling coalition and the opposition to purge Bangladesh of what it says an ‘image crisis’ and lure in foreign investment in its bid to become a middle-income country by 2021.
The EU Head of the delegation suggested that   both the major parties should exercise ‘restraint and engage in dialogue’ within or outside Parliament to resolvethe caretaker government issue.

EU expressed its desire to encourage and support dialogue with a belief that parliament is the best place for dialogue. .

Apparently  influenced  by  the  donors  pressure,  Awami League  General Secretary  and  LGRD Minister  Syed  Ashraf  has  favoured  the  initiative  for   a political dialogue involving   all political parties.  Syed Ashraful Islam, however, did not give any date or process of holding the talks to resolve ‘differences’.

The political dialogue has to be held as it has no alternative to ease an increasingly volatile political situation, he said replying to reporters queries at the parliament building on Wednesday.

When asked about the date and process of talks, the local government minister said,” Everybody will know that once the process starts.”

Jatiya Party (JP), one of the key of the ruling coalition, also believes ‘it’s necessary to hold talks before the next general elections’.  JP chief, Hussein Muhammad Ershad on Tuesday voiced in favour of initiating national polls dialogues in parliament.

Responding  to  the  issue  of  dialogue,  BNP acting  general secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir  said on Wednesday  that   his  party was  ready to join dialogue on non-party government either in or outside parliament if the government announces to accept their demand in principle.

He said they have agreed to sit in dialogue with the ruling party at any place. “But before that, the government will have to announce that it has accepted the matter in principle,” he said.

It  is  clear  from  BNP’s  statement  that  they want  a  dialogue  on  caretaker  government  issue,  that  the  ruling  party  is  still  opposing  on  the  ground  that  the court  had  scrapped  the  system originally  introduced in March 1996.

Meanwhile, BNP has been  demanding  that before  initiating  a dialogue, the  government must  stop   political persecution,  withdraw  fabricated  cases against  opposition  leaders and   allow  the  opposition  exercise  their  democratic  rights  without  the  obstruction  from  the  police  and ruling party hoodlums.

Political observers understand  that  the  real  game  and  gimmick  would  start  now cantering   the  issue  of  preconditions,   the  agenda  for  discussion and  the   venue of  discussion.

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