BNP to go back to parliament
Monday, 23 February 2009

The main opposition BNP has said it will go back to parliament this session.

"We will join parliament very soon," opposition chief whip Joynal Abdin Faruq told reporters after a meeting of the parliamentary party Sunday.

The meeting, chaired by BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia,
adjourned shortly after 7pm.

The long-awaited decision, resolving a bitter dispute over seating order in the House, came following almost three hours of deliberations at Zia's parliament office.

"BNP would like to play its role effectively in parliament, which so far has been impeded by the government. In today's meeting, we'll decide the issue finally," senior BNP MP Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury told before.

He hinted his party was keen to walk in to the House "during this session", so that they might have their say on the ordinances the emergency government had enacted.

The boycott began as the seating arrangement of outgoing speaker Jamiruddin Sircar, who had allotted BNP MPs nine seats in the first row and ten in the second, was reversed by new speaker Abdul Hamid.

The opposition walked out on Jan. 28 and refused to rejoin parliament, after Hamid reduced BNP to four seats each in the frontmost and second rows "in line with their total number of MPs".


Speaker Abdul Hamid held a meeting with the chief whips of the ruling and opposition parties late last week.

"[Hamid] proposed some changes to the seating arrangements," said Faruq.

The speaker reportedly offered another front-row seat to the opposition for the next parliamentary session.

The prime minister had also sounded optimistic that the parliamentary boycott would end Sunday as the speaker had made a conciliatory offer on the seat row.

"The speaker has made a move to bring the main opposition back," Sheikh Hasina said at an orientation programme for first-time MPs.

He may have to fulfil some of their demands to that end, said the prime minister, who appeared to have softened her stance on the row.

"I hope they will return to the House soon," she said.

Faruq said Sunday's meeting condemned the government for not providing "proper respect and protocol" to Khaleda, the leader of the opposition, while she had gone to pay tribute to the Language Movement martyrs at Sthaeed Minar Saturday.

The ruling Awami League chief whip had agreed to put the opposition names in the parliamentary and ministerial committees in line with the opposition leader's proposal, Faruq said of the meeting of the chief whips of the ruling and opposition parties last week.

The speaker and the ruling party chief whip had also agreed to change the declared names of opposition members on the parliamentary standing committees on two ministries.

Faruq said they will get 'a decent number of seats' in parliament" this session or the next.

The party also expressed concerned over "the ruling party' repression on opposition leaders and supporters", violence by the ruling party-backed student front Bangladesh Chhatra League and "deterioration of law and order".

MPs from Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Jatiya Party, BNP's allies also attended the meeting


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