Dialogue ball starts rolling

AL and BNP agree to discuss way out; Taranco extends stay for a day

A light can be seen at the end of the tunnel, as the process for holding the long expected dialogue between the Awami League and BNP finally started yesterday, at the mediation of UN envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.

Fernandez-Taranco, who had been tight-lipped about the dialogue initiatives, yesterday evening said the government and the opposition were engaged in a dialogue to resolve the current conflict at the intervention of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He also postponed his departure from Dhaka for 24 hours. He was scheduled to leave yesterday evening.

“At the invitation of the UN secretary-general, representatives of both parties have met and engaged in a dialogue,” the UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs said at the sudden informal press briefing.

“I have decided to extend my stay here in Bangladesh given the positive developments that have been taking place,” he said. “Both sides have agreed to continue their dialogue in a spirit of goodwill and compromise.”

Fernandez-Taranco said: “I want to take this opportunity to applaud the decision [of the both parties] to sit down and seize this important opportunity.

“This shows political leadership, responsibility and courage and it is also an answer to the expectations of the people of Bangladesh.”

The BNP, which also refused to talk about the meeting outcome, issued a statement yesterday evening, confirming that leaders from both parties had met at the residence of the UN resident coordinator in the afternoon and agreed to continue the dialogue on polls-time government.

Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam led the Awami League delegation while BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir led the BNP side at the meeting.

The Awami League side also had Advisory Council members Amir Hossain Amu and Tofail Ahmed, and prime minister’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi, while the BNP delegation comprised Standing Committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain,

Abdul Moyeen Khan and Vice-Chairman Shamser Mobin Chowdhury.

After the meeting, the delegation went to their party chiefs to discuss the details of the meeting.

In a statement, the Awami League said it had asked the opposition to create a congenial atmosphere for the dialogue, stopping hartal, blockade, destruction of state properties and killing.

In reply to the BNP’s demand for the release of detained leaders and activists, the Awami League said if destructive activities stopped, the atmosphere for discussing the release of the detained leaders and activists would be created.

The atmosphere for holding a constructive dialogue over the polls-time government would never take place if destructive activities were not stopped, the Awami League said.

A rumour had spread since morning that a highly secret meeting of the Awami League and the BNP had been going on in a Baridhara house, but the meeting actually took place at the UN official’s residence dodging the media.

In his meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday, Fernandez-Taranco inquired if there was a scope to shift the date of the 10th general elections, now scheduled for January 5, apparently to ensure BNP’s participation. He is scheduled to meet the PM today again.

He also had meetings with the Awami League delegation at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the afternoon and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia in the evening.

On Sunday, he had met the Awami League delegation at the residence of Gowher Rizvi and BNP leader Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury and Sabihuddin Ahmed at Shamsher’s Banani residence. None from the two parties revealed anything to the media about the meetings.

The two major political parties have been engaged in a conflict over the formation of the polls-time government for a long time; the Election Commission meanwhile declared the election schedule.

The BNP and its allies and the Jatiya Party boycotted the elections while the Awami League and its allies already submitted nomination papers for the polls.

After meeting with the chief election officer, Fernandez-Taranco said: “I do believe there is a possibility of finding a peaceful solution to this current deadlock if you have political will, if you have leadership, if we have an attitude of compromise and, most importantly, if you are able to engage in peaceful dialogue.”

Source: Dhaka Tribune