Uncertainty to rise if election held amid violence and with no dialogue: Analyst

Donald Lu

The US has called upon three major political parties to hold an unconditional dialogue to reach a consensus ahead of the next parliamentary election slated to be held in January next year.

The western country also reminded of visa restrictions to be imposed for hindering free, fair and peaceful elections.

In this regard, the US sent letters to BNP and Jatiya Party on Monday. The letter will also be sent to ruling Awami League.

The US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu wrote this letter to three parties.

About the letter of Donald Lu, spokesperson of the US Embassy in Dhaka Stephen Ibelli issued a statement on Monday.

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In the statement, Stephen Ibelli said, “The United States wants free and fair elections conducted in a peaceful manner and calls on all sides to eschew violence and exercise restraint. The United States does not favour any political party over the other.”

The opposition BNP said they are at the final stage of the movement pressing for their one-point demand seeking resignation of the government and holding election under a neutral government. On the contrary the ruling Awami League is advancing with the goal for holding the election on time in accordance with the constitution.

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The election commission is also at the final stage of announcing the election schedule.

Replying to a query of newsmen on Monday, the election commission secretary Md Jahangir Alam said, "The election schedule may be announced on 15 November."

Under such circumstances, the US called upon three major political parties to hold unconditional dialogue. The call was made through the US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu.

Letters handed over to political parties

US ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas went to the Jatiya Party office in Banani on Monday. He held a meeting with JaPa chairman Golam Mohammad Quader there.

BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told Prothom Alo on Monday that he received the letter from Donald Lu. Rizvi didn't make any comment further.

Speaking to Prothom Ao at around 10:00pm on Monday, Awami League office secretary Biplob Barua said they didn't receive any letter from the US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

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Earlier 31 October, the US ambassador Peter Haas held a meeting with the chief election commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal. After the meeting Peter Haas told newsmen that he hoped the political parties would hold an unconditional dialogue.

When contacted, Awami League and BNP didn't make any comment immediately about the unconditional dialogue. However, they want to reach a solution through discussions. Jatiya Party is doubtful about the unconditoinal dialogue as the major two parties are a loggerheads.

Meanwhile, during handing over Donald Lu's letter to Jaitya Party, Peter Haas held a meeting with JaPa leaders and discussed the political situation, said JaPa secretary general Mujibul Haque.

Mujibul Haque said three things have been mentioned in the letter. First, the US mainly wants to see a free, fair and inclusive election. Second, it has been mentioned that a dialogue without conditions has to be held. Third, the the letter had a reminder about the visa restrictions that the US has adopted for a free and fair election.

The statement the US embassy issued on Monday about the Donald Lu's letter also mentioned about a free and fair election.

The political analysts said the main point of the US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu's letter is to hold an unconditional dialogue to resolve the political crisis.

They think violence is taking place centering the political programmes. In the face of arrests, the opposition leaders are in hiding and enforcing blockades. Dialogue should be held to come out of this situation.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Monday, former election commissioner and political analyst M Sakhawat Hossain said the US has been calling for dialogue to resolve the crisis from the very beginning. This time they did it in writing. The political parties should consider this positively.

But he said in the face of arrest BNP leaders and activists are in hiding and around 10,000 of their leaders and activists have been arrested. Under such a situation, he is doubtful if BNP will join unconditional dialogue.
However, Sakhawat observes the uncertainty will increase if the crisis is not resolved through dialogue and if the election is held amid violence.

*This story, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.