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UN chief to Bangladesh makes fruitless ruling-opposition party discussion
Publication Date : 12-12-2013
The United Nations’ hectic efforts brought the ruling party Awami League and the oppostion party BNP leaders to the discussion table twice in the last two days, but could not make any breakthrough in the stalemate over the polls-time government as the rival camps stuck to their guns.
However, leaders of both the parties told the BBC Bangla service last night that they might sit again tomorrow and expected to reach an agreement through dialogue.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has been urging the AL and the BNP since August to sit for talks to resolve the crisis, called Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday.
“Ban Ki-moon told the prime minister that he wants a peaceful election in line with the constitutional provisions,” prime minister’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad said.
Ban also expressed his hope that the dialogue would continue and be fruitful.
The UN chief made the phone call at noon, an hour after the second round of talks between the two sides ended without any consensus over the polls-time cabinet.
During the talks in presence of UN envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the ruling party maintained the election must be held under the current constitutional provisions and Sheikh Hasina would continue to head the election-time government.
On deferring the polls date, AL leaders said the fixture might be revised to give three or four days for filing nomination papers only if the BNP-led pposition stopped blockades and hartals, according to the AL and BNP leaders who attended the dialogue.
But the BNP delegation disagreed with the AL and reiterated that Hasina must step down as the PM to make way for installing a nonparty person as head of the election-time cabinet, they added, requesting anonymity.
According to BNP sources, party chief Khaleda Zia instructed her negotiators to make “no compromise” on the Hasina issue.
Wrapping up his five-day visit, Taranco, UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, told a press briefing that it was now the responsibility of the two parties to continue the talks to reach a consensus.
Asked to comment on the developments over the last two days, a senior AL leader who attended the parleys, said: “The South Pole and the North Pole cannot meet.”
Another AL leader who held a meeting with Taranco and is monitoring the development said chances of any solution were slim as the BNP remained rigid on its stance.
A member of the BNP team also did not see much hope.
“He (Taranco) has done his job — engaged us in talks. His mission is successful. But we are where we have been,” he said, sounding frustrated.
Neither parties, however, briefed the media or issued any statement on yesterday’s talks. After the first round of talks on Tuesday, both parties had issued statements about their engagement and commitment to talk further.
AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam led his party’s delegation. Other members were Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed and Gowher Rizvi.
BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir led the opposition team that included Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Moyeen Khan and Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury.
At a regular press briefing, BNP leader Nazrul Islam Khan yesterday said the opposition alliance would continue its agitation until a solution to the crisis came.
The AL for its part has instructed its grassroots to take to the streets to counter the opposition agitation that aims to foil the January 5 election.
In addition, the AL has started distributing letters among its nominees on the allocation of electoral symbol. The party nominees will submit the letters to the returning officers, seeking party’s electoral symbol, boat, when the allocation of polls symbols starts on December 14.
“The government is determined to hold the election and the Awami League wants the polls in due time,” Agriculture Minister and AL Presidium Member Matia Chowdhury told this newspaper.
Earlier in December last year again in May this year, the UN chief sent two delegations led by Taranco to encourage the AL and the BNP to resolve the crisis through talks.
In August, Ban Ki-moon himself called Hasina and Khaleda and urged them to hold talks for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Then in September, US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote letters to the two top leaders, calling on them to engage in talks to settle the issue of the election-time government.
In addition, diplomats of different countries stationed in Dhaka have long been urging the two sides to hold talks.
But none of these efforts seem to have yielded any results.
Amid all these, the Election Commission on November 25 announced the polls schedule.
The BNP-led opposition rejected the schedule and started enforcing blockade from the next day. The date for filing nomination papers expired on December 2, with the opposition alliance not filing any nomination.
Against this backdrop, Taranco again arrived in Dhaka on Friday to try to broker a dialogue between the two camps to forge a consensus.
Before his arrival, the UN chief wrote to Hasina and Khaleda urging them again to hold talks and requesting them to assist his envoy.
During his stay, Taranco made serious efforts to bring the two sides to a discussion table and eventually succeeded. But a desired outcome appears a far cry.