Transparency International, Bangladesh chapter chairman Professor Muzaffer Ahmad on Monday said he believed that the nation could not come out of the present situation without a decision on the detained top leaders of the two major political parties.
‘The question of the two leaders will arise in the proposed dialogue between the political parties and the government. Whether one likes them or not is not the question since people want them,’ he said.
Reaching a decision regarding the fate of detained Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia is a must, he noted.
A political solution may end their detentions or help suspend their cases and there are instances of such compromises like that in the case of Mahatma Gandhi, he pointed out.
Professor Muzaffer, also the president of civic group Shujon, was chairing a roundtable discussion on ‘Dialogue: Necessity for attaining national consensus before election.’
Organised by Media Initiative for Public Policy, the discussion at the National Press Club was also addressed by senior journalist ABM Musa, former Awami League lawmakers Asaduzzaman Noor and Saber Hossain Chowdhury, FBCCI’s former president Mir Nasir Hossain, Jatiya Party presidium member Ziauddin Bablu, Dhaka University law professor Asif Nazrul and Bikalpa Dhara leader Mahi B Chowdhury. Associated Press bureau chief and MIPP convenor Farid Hossain moderated the discussion.
‘The political culture needs changes to make the public representatives accountable,’ he said, suggesting that constitutional reforms could be thought of, if needed.
The TIB chairman, stressing the need for reforms within the political organisations, said that a qualitative change was going on and the political parties should therefore act more responsibly and guide their workers accordingly.
Emergency should be relaxed to discuss these issues for reaching a consensus among major political parties, he said.
The neutrality of the administration is a must for holding a free and fair election which the present government has to ensure and that should be openly discussed, he added.
Referring to the role of the army called out in various situations, Muzaffer said, ‘If we bring them in a situation where there is a chance of the chain of command to be broken, this army will not remain the same.’
ABM Musa expressed doubts whether any dialogue would be fruitful without the presence of Hasina and Khaleda.
He was also critical of the political parties for forgetting their election manifestoes soon after going to power.
‘What is the guarantee that the political parties would fulfil the issues agreed in the proposed dialogue?’ he said.
Awami League’s organising secretary Saber Hossain Chowdhury said the tendency of deciding everything at this very moment was not right. ‘It should not be a compulsion that a consensus should have to be reached in the proposed dialogue.’
Asaduzzaman Noor said reforms were needed within the party so that the aspirations of the grassroots people were reflected in the activities of the political parties.
Lamenting on politicisation of the police and administration by the past government, he said institutional reforms were needed to give democracy a stable shape.
Business leader Mir Nasir Hossain said election was important not only for political reasons but also for the economy.
‘Foreign and local investments depend on political stability. Nothing can be achieved unless there is qualitative difference in national politics,’ he added.
Jatiya Party leader Ziauddin Bablu said the January 11 changeover took place due to lack of dialogue among the concerned parties. ‘It is unfortunate that the government and opposition never had dialogue.’
Professor Asif Nazrul said consensus had to be reached on issues like parliament boycott and hartals.
‘The proposed dialogue should have been held much earlier,’ the law professor said.
Mahi B Chowdhury said that serious thought should be given on formulating laws for checking political activities on the streets.