No possibility of dialogue due to tangle of conditions

Logo of Awami League and BNP

Although the United States pre-election assessment mission has recommended to hold substantive dialogue among the political parties for an inclusive election, there is no possibility of dialogue between the ruling Awami League and BNP due to tangle of conditions, the leaders of two major political parties have hinted.

However, both the camps are blaming each other for the current situation.

On the one hand, BNP wants the resignation of the government led by Sheikh Hasina while Awami League is not willing to compromise in this regard.

As the election is drawing near, both the parties are advancing to show their strength in the streets through holding programmes and counter programmes.

Political analysts said both the camps are trying to win by showing strength in support of their position at the moment.

However, a section of leaders of both the parties feels the necessity of holding dialogue to avoid violence.

But they are also supporting the strategies of their respective parties showing allegiance to the stance of their own parties.

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After visiting Dhaka, the United States pre-election assessment mission made recommendations through a publication from Washington on 14 October.

They made five recommendations including holding substantive dialogue among the political parties with the aim of ensuring a credible, inclusive, and violence-free election.

Following the publication of the recommendations in the media outlets, Awami League general secretary and also road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader said, "BNP wants resignation of the prime minister.

The party also demanded the restoration of the caretaker government. When they will lift these conditions, only then will we think about holding a dialogue.

We have no plan to hold dialogue with conditions."

While talking to newsmen, law minister Anisul Huq said dialogue cannot be held beyond the constitution or the existing law.

The ruling camp is presenting the demand of BNP as a bar to holding dialogue while BNP is blaming Awami League.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Awami League is talking about the election under their government and they are setting conditions that they won't go beyond the constitution. As a result, Awami League has stopped the scope of dialogue.

The BNP secretary general said, "We will not join any dialogue if the government led by Sheikh Hasina does not resign and a declaration is not made that the election will be held under a non-party government. We are in our earlier position."

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However, there is pressure on both the parties by foreign diplomats to solve the problems through dialogue.

It has been learnt that a diplomat of a western country has held separate meetings with two top leaders of Awami League and BNP. But both the parties are openly rejecting the possibility of dialogue.

Despite pressures by diplomats to solve the crisis through discussions, both are advancing with strategies to defeat one another and they are unwilling to hold dialogue.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, former election commissioner and analyst Sakhawat Hussain said both the parties are thinking if anyone of them relents at the moment, it would be a defeat for the party.

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BNP's preparation to take movement to final stage

BNP leaders think a majority of the people are supporting the movement of the opposition parties as they are angry at the government due to price hike of essentials and economic crisis.

Besides, the US visa policy and the steps by the western countries ahead of the election are in favour of the BNP.

Under such a context, it has become a challenge for Awami League to hold a one-sided election like the ones in 2014 and 2018. This time BNP will be able to take the movement to the final stage if the party can exploit this opportunity.

With this matter in mind, BNP is not in a position of negotiation.

BNP senior leaders said they are not thinking about dialogue or discussions as there is little time ahead of the declaration of schedule in November. They are giving priority to the final stage of movement in the street.

A BNP leader at the policy level said the BNP, which has been out of power for 17 years, will face existential crisis if Awami League holds a one-sided election.

Under such a situation, the party top leadership has decided not to take part in the election under this government.

They are considering programmes like a long march towards Dhaka or blockade at the end of October.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, "Ahead of our decision to go for a one-point movement, the government said they will not hold dialogue with us showing the excuse of the constitution. Now there is no scope for dialogue."

Despite that, the party will discuss at the top level about the recommendations of the US pre-election assessment mission, the BNP leader added.

Some of the BNP leaders think violence should be avoided by solving the crisis through dialogue.

Awami League has no preparation for dialogue

There is no possibility of holding dialogue anytime soon as Awami League has no preparation only or secretly to hold dialogue with opposition parties including BNP.

Awami League policymakers don't think the scope of dialogue has been stopped entirely.

However, Awami League will not join any dialogue with issues like the caretaker government, the neutral government, the resignation of the prime minister in the agenda.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Awami League presidium member and agriculture minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said the crisis should be resolved through discussions. But BNP has stopped that scope, raising one-point demand. They will not hold any discussion over this demand.

Sources in the Awami League said party president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina has not hinted at the dialogue or negotiation. As a result, it can be said there is no sign of holding dialogue with the BNP over the next election.

But it cannot be said there will not be any dialogue with the BNP. However, everything depends on whether Awami League feels the urge of dialogue or the foreign pressure.

A central leader of Awami League said only one month is left to declare the schedule of election. At this stage it is not realistic to initiate a dialogue, and hold it and reach a decision.

Rather if an attempt is made to hold dialogue, Awami League's plan to hold elections in time may be hampered. So there is a little possibility on the part of the Awami League to organise dialogue.

Civil society members think both parties are heading towards an extreme level and the scope of dialogue is decreasing.

Former election commission Sakhawat Hussain said it is visible that the government is preparing for a one-sided election although the government has more responsibility. As a result, the fear of violence is increasing.

*This report, originally published by Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.