Published: Friday, May 17, 2013

Govt calling for talks, not meaning it actually

The ruling Awami League has taken a strategy to keep urging the main opposition BNP to sit for dialogue, but not to formally invite it to talks until BNP agrees to discuss the formation of a polls-time government with elected representatives, said AL insiders.
AL General Secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam indicated that dialogue between the two sides would not take place soon, as his party would take more time to formally invite BNP to talks.
“Let things calm down first, and let us have an environment conducive to dialogue,” he told The Daily Star at a tea break of an extended meeting of AL central working committee at Gono Bhaban on Wednesday.
“We have many things to do before we sit for dialogue.”
AL insiders said the party would no way give in to the BNP’s demand for restoration of the caretaker government. It would move formally to hold talks with BNP if the main opposition party agrees to shift from its stance and discuss the formation of an election-time government.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a meeting with her party’s senior leaders and ministers at Gono Bhaban on Tuesday night, and discussed the issues of dialogue with BNP, current political situation and the next parliamentary election.
“If we write to BNP inviting it to talks, there is no guarantee that the party will respond positively. Rather, BNP will try to take political advantage from it, and use it as a justification of their demand for restoration of the caretaker government system,” a minister, who attended the meeting, told The Daily Star asking not to be named.
The current situation suggests that the holding of much-expected talks between the two sides still remains a far cry.
The prime minister is still in favour of holding the election within the present timeframe stipulated in the constitution, said a source in AL.
According to the constitutional provision, the next parliamentary election will be held any time between October 25, 2013 and January 24, 2014.
“She favours the holding of the election after dissolution of parliament, though it will reduce her government’s tenure by three months,” the source said.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, who was present at the meeting, told The Daily Star yesterday, “Dialogue will be held on the formation of an interim government, and the next parliamentary election will be held under the current constitutional provision.”
Sheikh Hasina was advised yesterday not to send any letter to the BNP for dialogue over the polls-time government.
At a 14-party meeting at Gono Bhaban, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon made the advice and spoke against the restoration of caretaker government system, meeting sources said.
In response, the prime minister said there was no discussion in any forum regarding sending an invitation letter to the BNP for talks, added the sources.
The 14-party leaders strongly denounced BNP’s demand for restoration of the caretaker government and maintained the next election must be held under an interim government in line with the constitution.
Echoing these views, Hasina hinted that the government would go tough on BNP’s movement for restoration of caretaker government, said the sources.