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Proposed dialogue hinges on release of Hasina, Khaleda PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Staff Correspondent

The sentiments prevailing in the two major political parties, Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party, suggest that the military-controlled interim government should make a policy decision on the release of the top two leaders – Shaikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia – to make its planned dialogue successful.

The Awami League on Sunday said the release of its chief Sheikh Hasina would top the agenda of the party in the proposed dialogue with the government.

The BNP seemed more assertive as it said the government must release its chairperson Khaleda Zia before the dialogue.

The government, however, is yet to detail its plan for the dialogue.

The chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, in an address to the nation on Saturday announced that his government would soon open dialogue with political parties for transition to democracy by holding free, fair and neutral elections.

The council of advisers on Thursday decided to hold dialogue with the political parties over the election issues.

According to sources present at the cabinet meeting, the dialogue may be officially initiated after the completion of the Election Commission's ongoing dialogues with the parties.

'Release of Sheikh Hasina will be our main demand in the dialogue between the political parties and the government,' the acting Awami League president, Zillur Rahman, told reporters at his Gulshan residence.

Asked whether the AL would press for the release of Hasina only or it would also demand release of other political leaders, including Khaleda Zia, he said that the AL wanted release of all the state prisoners but obviously the case of Sheikh Hasina deserved priority.

Giving the party's formal reaction to the chief adviser's address, the AL leaders said that they would urge the government to arrange separate dialogues with political parties as the AL would never sit with the anti-liberation Jamaat-e-Islami.

Zillur said that the only positive aspect of the chief adviser's address was that he assured the people of holding the elections according to their roadmap.

He expressed his frustration that the chief adviser did not touch on the issues of release of the state prisoners, labour unrest, closure of mills and factories, release of the university teachers and students, leak of National University question paper and the sixth wage board award for newspaper employees.

'Although the chief adviser admitted the crisis of rice, he failed to give any solution', Zillur said.

Party presidium member Tofail Ahmed said that the issue of keeping the war criminals out of the elections would be on the agenda of the AL during the dialogue.

Unlike Awami League, the BNP believes that the party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, should lead the party in the dialogue between the political parties and the government.

'The BNP chairperson must be freed from jail before the dialogue so that she can lead the party in the talks', Rizvi Ahmed, acting office secretary of BNP, quoted the secretary general of the party, Khandaker Delwar Hossain, as saying.

Delwar said that his party was yet to make plans for the dialogue as the government did not elaborate its plan for the talks. 'We do not know the agenda of the proposed dialogue.'

He said his party still had doubt about holding of the national polls. 'We are yet to be convinced that the government really wants to hold credible poll… The government and the Election Commission have taken a number of steps with ill motive, including formation of a committee of BNP with controversial people and arrest of a large number of politicians without specific charges.'

Delwar renewed is call for complete lifting of the state of emergency to enable political parties to begin their activities.

He censured the government for filing 'fabricated' cases against politicians, including Khaleda Zia.

Delwar also criticised the government for its failure in tackling the 'famine-like' situation and containing commodity prices.

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