The government and ruling Awami League sees the letter sent by the US calling for dialogue with suspicion as many from the government quarter question if the US has any motive behind urging for dialogue just before the announcement of the election schedule.
The US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu sent letters to three major parties of Bangladesh--Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party (JaPa).
BNP and JaPa received the letters on Monday. Awami League received the letter on Wednesday.
When the issue of dialogue appears in the political arena again, the two main parties continue to trade in opposite directions. Awami League is fully concentrating on the next election while the BNP leaders are on the run in the face of case and arrest. The BNP continues its blockade programme demanding the government's resignation and the election under a neutral administration.
The government, however, is not interested in broaching any initiative of dialogue or compromise with the BNP.
AL leaders said BNP has turned politics towards a violent way by continuing its hartal-blockade since 28 October. The ruling party is not in the mood of holding dialogue with the BNP in this situation.
Agriculture minister and AL presidium member Abdur Razzaque told Prothom Alo on Tuesday, “We would discuss the issue at the top level of the party once we receive the letter from the US.”
BNP also said it would discuss the content of the letter of the US in the party’s policy making level.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told Prothom Alo the policymaking leaders who are out of jail evading arrest will discuss the letter and decide on it.
AL not interested in dialogue
AL is not attaching much importance on holding dialogue as per the wish of the US. The ruling party thinks issuing letters just before the announcement of the schedule is not normal. There might be an attempt to hold the election in abeyance by such a proposal. So the ruling AL does not want to give much importance to holding dialogue and rather wants to focus on the election after the election schedule is announced.
What will BNP do?
BNP received the letter from the US on Monday. The party seems a bit cautious about the letter. BNP does not want to take any responsibility about holding the dialogue and it wants to pass the responsibility to the government to act.
The BNP leaders think violence centering the party’s 28 October rally and subsequent arrest drives of police are a part of the government's plan ahead of the next general election. The government wants to hold another one-sided election keeping BNP out of the electoral race and that’s why the top leaders including party’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and more than 8,000 leaders-activists were arrested.
On the other hand, BNP has been launching a movement demanding the election under a neutral government. The party has said they will intensify their movement once the election commission announces the election schedule.
The Jatiya Party, the opposition in the parliament is in favour of dialogue.
Party secretary general Mujibul Haque Chunnu told Prothom Alo that a scope of discussion has been created for the letter of US to hold a free, fair and inclusive election. The main two parties should avail this opportunity.
The possibility of dialogue
Political experts noted there is a little possibility of dialogue as the two parties are in opposing directions.
Former election commissioner and political analyst M Sakhawat told Prothom Alo that the question remains as to who will shoulder the liabilities if another election like 2014 and 2018 is held.
Taking this reality into consideration, the ruling party should take an initiative to hold a dialogue and reach a consensus.
He also thinks, "Everything is in the hands of the government that means the ball is in the government's court in the question of holding dialogue and holding a free, fair and inclusive election."