Photo: Advisers with Sheikh Hasina, BanglarChokh.
Photo: Advisers with Khaleda Zia, BanglarChokh.
The military-backed government and the political parties until Tuesday night failed to forge any consensus to reschedule the next month’s elections despite hectic negations, overt and covert, as the BNP’s 48-hour deadline expires tonight.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party rejected the government’s offer to reschedule the parliamentary polls by 10 days asking for at least a month deferral while the Awami League demanded holding the polls as per the schedule on December 18, leaders attending the government-political parties negotiation said.
The AL has no problem if the deadline for submission of nomination papers is delayed by a few days, they said adding that the party and its allies asked the government to hold the polls as per the schedule as it failed to convince the BNP.
‘The government conveyed us that it had offered the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to delay the voting date to December 28 from December 18, but they rejected the proposal,’ Rashed Khan Menon, a leader of the AL-led alliance said after the one-hour meeting between a five-member panel of advisers and the alliance leaders led by AL chief Sheikh Hasina Tuesday night.
Meeting sources said that Hasina asked the government hold the election on December 18 if it fails to settle the issue with BNP.
Earlier in the evening, the panel led by commerce adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman had meeting with the BNP chief Khaleda Zia who gave the interim government and the Election Commission 48 hours’ time, ending this evening, to accept the alliance’s four-point demands, if BNP is to join the polls.
The BNP’s four points, shortened from the seven-point charter that the BNP-led alliance had pressing for the last few weeks, included three of the previous demands—complete lifting of emergency, abolition of the EC’s power to cancel candidature during elections and deferral of the upazila elections by one month after the general elections.
Allowing Hajj pilgrims to cast their ballots came as a new demand.
After the meeting with the leaders of the AL-led alliance, Hossain Zillur Rahman requested the waiting reporters not to ask him any question on the outcome of the meeting. He said that he went there to discuss the ways and means for a free, fair and peaceful election.
‘We have started the discussion and it will continue,’ the adviser told reporters after a one and half hour meting with BNP chairperson at her Gulshan office indicating that the first day consultation inconclusive.
The BNP secretary general, Khandaker Delwar Hossain, also hoped that the discussion will continue saying, ‘We have genuine intention to contest the polls. We have relaxed our standpoint to the maximum possible limit.’
But the BNP leader declined to give details of the discussion expressing optimism that further discussions would break the logjam over holding of the general elections on December 18.
The advisory panel comprising Hossain Zillur Rahman, Ghulam Quader, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Hassan Ariff and Anwarul Iqbal — who negotiated on behalf of the government in previous talks with political parties— also had consultation with chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed and Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda in the afternoon
The contents of the two-and-half-hour talk at the chief adviser’s office were not known. None from the government and the EC showed up and briefed as they usually do before television cameras almost after every event or meeting.
At a programme in the morning adviser Hossain Zillur termed the BNP’s conditional stance towards election participation positive saying, ‘It is a great relief for the nation that BNP will participate in the election, though they press for fulfilling certain conditions.’
Reliable sources in the government hinted that the government and the EC were weighing the option of deferring the schedules of both the parliamentary and upazila elections for more than a week.
After the meeting, the panel of five advisers rushed to the BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office. The advisers are expected to meet the BNP leadership again today to convey the government’s latest response to the four-point demands.
Earlier, the Election Commission reviewed the four-point demands and collected a list of hajj pilgrims from the religious affairs ministry to see their return schedules from Saudi Arabia.
The last hajj flight will return to Dhaka on January 2 and election officials estimated that about 80 per cent of pilgrims should return within December as per the flight schedules.
Meanwhile, the Awami League intensified its preparations for elections as per the schedule, selecting party nominees for nearly 175 out of 300 parliamentary constituencies and negotiating with alliance partners.
Former military dictator and Jatiya Party chairman Hussein Mohammad Ershad met with Awami League president Sheikh Hasina Tuesday evening, claiming that they agreed on “election together and formation of the next government together.’