The political leaders in Bangladesh have recently become highly proactive in the diplomatic districts ahead of the upcoming (12th) national elections. In continuation of this, a delegation of ruling Awami League, led by the party's general secretary Obaidul Quader, went to the residence of the US ambassador in Dhaka, Peter Haas at his invitation for lunch on Wednesday afternoon.
The delegation included AL presidium member Faruk Khan, office secretary Biplab Barua, international affairs secretary Shammi Ahmed, information and research affairs secretary Selim Mahmud and central executive member Mohammed A Arafat.
According to the sources in the AL delegation, the two sides discussed contemporary political issues, including the upcoming general election, in the meeting.
Referring to his recent meetings with the leaders of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) at different times, US ambassador Peter Haas said that the opposition wants the national polls to be held under a neutral government. The ambassador asked about Awami League’s stance over this issue.
In response, the delegation told him that the system of caretaker government was the outcome of Awami League’s movement. However, BNP misused the system during the polls in 2001 and 2006. The unelected government of ‘1/11’ came as a result of this, the AL leaders added.
Besides, the system of caretaker government does not exist in any country in the world except Pakistan. In this context, it is clear that the AL will not go beyond the constitution, they said.
The delegation also assured the US ambassador of a free and fair election.
Sources present in the meeting also said the AL delegation further told the ambassador that the election commission (EC) is completely independent both legally and financially. The EC has grown into a powerful institution of the state under the incumbent government. The government will provide all kinds of assistance the EC needs to hold a free and fair election, they said.
The delegation highlighted the irregularities in the polls held during the BNP-Jamaat regime in comparison to the polls held in recent times under the AL government during the meeting.
According to the sources in the AL delegation, the US ambassador was more interested in hearing from the AL delegates rather than suggesting this time. Ambassador Peter Haas told the AL leaders that the US expects a participatory election in Bangladesh.
Earlier, on 16 February, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader held a meeting with the diplomats from seven European Union (EU) countries. Speaking to the newspersons after the meeting that day, Obaidul Quader said, “All parties, including the BNP will take part in the upcoming national polls.”
Apart from that, several diplomats met with the AL general secretary in person. The ruling party is also holding meetings in participation of party delegation. The ruling party leaders are expecting more meetings like these in future as well. However, none of the AL leaders wanted to disclose their identities while talking on this.
The BNP also has met diplomats from the US, EU and different other countries, including India, several times. Criticising these meetings, the ministers and leaders of the ruling party often term the opposition's diplomatic efforts as ‘BNP taking resort to foreign intervention’.