Major political parties and the interim government on Thursday put in hectic efforts to resolve the current political crisis by ensuring participation of the parties in the parliamentary elections.
Some leaders of the BNP, Awami League and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and the panel of advisers dealing with political negotiations were keeping in touch till Thursday evening although the feuding sides were divided on the implementation of the four-point demand of the BNP and its allies.
‘The advisers communicated with some of us on Wednesday to know whether we would contest the polls if it could be held on December 28,’ the BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, said at a briefing Thursday evening in her office at Gulshan. ‘They [advisers] said three of the four demands could be considered if the alliance agreed to the December 28 elections.’
Four of the five advisers dealing with political negotiations had a meeting at the secretariat on Thursday with the communications adviser, Ghulam Quader, in the chair.
The panel members — law adviser AF Hassan Ariff, LGRD and cooperatives adviser Anwarul Iqbal and commerce adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman — attended the meeting, which lasted for an hour and a half, to discuss ways to address the political crisis.
When approached after the meeting, the advisers refused to disclose anything to newsmen. All of them came out of the communications ministry one after another at about 1:30pm and hurried away, ignoring the queries of reporters waiting outside.
A section of influential persons in the military-controlled interim government, including some advisers, had also contacted other leaders, including BNP standing committee members Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain and Mahbubur Rahman and joint secretary general Nazrul Islam Khan and the Awami League’s joint general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam on Wednesday and Thursday.
The BNP-led alliance chief, Khaleda Zia, Monday evening gave the government 48 hours to take measures to implement its four-point charter of demands.
The five advisers held negotiations with Khaleda Zia and her political arch-rival Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina Tuesday evening.
The government’s specific proposals included rescheduling of the national elections to December 28, instead of December 18, a complete withdrawal of the state of emergency before the parliamentary polls considering law and order on the ground, holding of the upazilla elections on January 8 and assurance of the highest caution and procedural transparency in the application of Article 91(E) of the Representation of the People Order.
According to the sources involved in the parleys, the BNP-led alliance on Wednesday agreed to the government’s proposal for the deferral of polls, but insisted that the state of emergency should be withdrawn completely and immediately and Article 91(E) of the Representation of the People Order should be suspended.
The Awami League told the government that would will have hardly any reservations if the parliamentary elections are deferred till December 28 ‘to hold an inclusive election’ without making more changes in the electoral process, said sources close to Hasina and Khaleda.
But the government at about 9:00pm on Wednesday said it would hold parliamentary and upazila elections on the dates already announced, December 18 and 28, as talks with the two major political camps led by the Awami League and the BNP failed.
In an immediate reaction at about 10:00pm on Wednesday, the BNP and its allies termed ‘partisan, unacceptable and extreme’ the military-controlled interim government’s decision of holding the suspended elections on December 18 amid the state of emergency.
The alliance has, however, kept avenues open for further negotiations by asking the government to take immediate measures to implement its demands.
In an immediate gesture Wednesday night, the Election Commission extended by three days the deadline for the submission of nomination papers for both the parliamentary and upazilla elections, which was scheduled to expire on Thursday.
The BNP’s secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain Thursday morning said, ‘Scopes for talks are still there.’