The election schedule has been announced. Is there any scope of consensus or dialogue?
There is an election cycle - pre-election, election schedule and election results. We are now at the second stage and we have a constitutional obligation. The election commission invited BNP and sent a letter and there was an open invitation. But they didn't respond. We think there is a little hope for them. They can now go to the president. After the announcement of the schedule, the election commission has to depend on the president to conduct executive activities.
That means there is still a scope of dialogue?
The schedule is a bit tight. There is not much time. The suspicions are so high that it is very difficult to overcome this. The possibility of dialogue can be compared with a patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The dialogue should have been held before the announcement of the schedule. The government and the election commission can consider the issue of dialogue in a different way. They can think that the issue of dialogue has been brought to the fore to foil the election on time.
BNP can meet the president and seek release of BNP leaders, the neutral role of the administration in the election and deployment of army in the election if they want. Even, they can seek time for the preparation of election. We all, personally I, want an inclusive election. The election will not be competitive unless BNP joins it. All the parties have to have scope in a democratic system. However, the participation of BNP is the main factor.
As a ruling party Awami League can initiate for a dialogue. There is also a question whether there is an environment of dialogue as the BNP leaders are in the jail. What do you think?
Following the announcement of schedule, the government merely carries out routine work. Now the president and the election commission will play the key role. As a party the Awami League can talk. The wall of suspicion between the two parties is so high that it is difficult to overcome that. Now BNP has fallen into a cycle and they are unable to come out. Their political decision is liable for this. The politics is like playing chess, if you make a mistake, the opponent will kill your king. The BNP has made so many mistakes that they didn't keep any alternative.
The top leaders are in the jail as they cannot avoid the violent activities including carrying out attacks on the residence of chief justice and Rajarbagh police line hospital. A bus assistant was burned to death. Have they expressed regret for this? They could say they have not done it. If these are not done, a message goes to the activists for carrying out these activities. If they continue these activities, they will come under the US visa restrictions. Besides, the prices of essentials are high in the market. If hartals and blockades are enforced continuously, the general people will suffer. At that time, they move away from the movement.
But what the police are doing is forceful. What’s the logic behind sending majority of the BNP leaders to jail? When this is the situation, can it be said that there’s a favourable environment for the election?
BNP at least can raise a strong demand that their top leaders have to be released. They can join the election as part of their movement. Back in 1923, there was an election of the Bengal legislative council in British India. Keeping the election ahead, Congress became divided into two sections. Mahatma Gandhi led a non-cooperation Khilafat movement from 1919 to 1922. Mahatma Gandhi then suspended the non-cooperation movement in response to an incident of 22 police personnel being burnt to death in 1922. Then the party faced a dilemma whether they should join the election or not. Before the election, followers of Mahatma Gandhi decided not to join the election. They said that joining the election means supporting the British government.
Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru however formed Swaraj Party and joined the election. They had said that they were joining the election not to support the government rather make it defunct from the inside. BNP can join the election without moving away from their demand.
Then if the public want, they can form the government otherwise they will become the opposition. And if the election is unfair, rigged and the results are overturned, they then will able to confidently claim that there cannot be a fair election under a party government.
The United States, European Union, China and India have long been discussing politics of Bangladesh. Donald Lu has sent a letter already. International human rights organisations are also saying that the opposition is being tortured and repressed in Bangladesh. If nothing else, it tarnishes the country’s image, doesn’t it?
The incident of using additional force takes place during the operation. However, it is true that extrajudicial killings have been stopped due to the international human rights organisations. The main challenge of the government is to hold a free and fair election. There must have a reflection of the people casting votes throught the ballots. The question will arise if anyone wins with a difference of thousands of votes.
We noticed the election in 2018 and if the government fails in this test. Does really the government want that BNP contests the election?
The election this time has to be free and fair. It is not possible for the country to bear the burden of another election like the ones held in 2014 and 2018. But the ruling party has tried several times to talk to BNP. The biggest mistake the BNP made boycotting the election in 2014. Boycotting the election this time will be another mistake. There is little time. Awami League will create a wave of election and new parties will contest the election. I have answered earlier whether Awami League wants BNP to contest in the election. Politics is like chess. If one makes a mistake, the opponent will kill the king.