Soon after the issuance of the US embassy's statement, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a press conference on Wednesday said the statement the US embassy issued on Tuesday night is enough to explain the visit of the US assistant secretary Donald Lu to Bangladesh. If we look closely at the statements of the ruling Awami League-led government and the main opposition BNP, it seems both the camps are apparently happy over the recent visit of Donald Lu.

But what about the people?

Do the foreign countries, the ruling party and the opposition accurately read the mind of the people? How will the country be shaped? How will the country run?  How will the judiciary perform? How will democracy thrive? How will the country be free from corruption? How will the country's institutions be strengthened? How will the prices of essentials remain within purchasing power? These, and more, are the concerns of the people. They want these issues to be addressed.

Although the foreign countries, the ruling party and the opposition loudly talk about the people and say people are the owners of the country and determine the fate of the country, they (foreign countries, the ruling party and the opposition) have their respective agenda and interests. These three camps may not hesitate to crush the interests of the people in their own interests.

Bangladesh has become a strategic hub for the great powers including the US, China, Russia and India. Like others, the US has been working closely here for a long time. The US wants Bangladesh's engagement in the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

In any engagement with any foreign country in any matter, it would be wiser to reach a consensus among the political parties. If the foreign country is allowed to have their agenda implemented, merely to hold on to power or making a commitment to go to power, ignoring the geo-politics of the country and defying the interest of the people, the country will ultimately suffer in the long run.

It is nothing for the country or the government to be proud of, that the extrajudicial killings have decreased significantly only after the imposition of US sanctions on RAB and its officials. Although the government denied any extrajudicial killings earlier, it seems that the government is happy that the US is happy over the decrease in extrajudicial killings. People never want extrajudicial killings and they want any offenders to be brought to book.

During the visit, Donald Lu has emphasied on the right to political association and assembly, freedom of speech, the right to vote and have inclusive elections. The ruling Awami League also wants to hold free, fair and credible elections while the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party also wants that a free, fair and credible elections will be held. Above all, the people also want free and fair elections.   

If all the camps are on the same page, then where is the problem in organising a free and fair election? Bangladesh's national elections will be held at the end of this year or early in 2024. But the question is how a free and fair election will be held? Meanwhile, BNP has already declared they would not participate in any election under the current government. They have been launching a movement to hold the election under a caretaker government. On the contrary, the government has said they would hold the election in keeping with the constitution.

It is alleged that the last two elections in 2014 and 2018 were not held in a free and fair manner. Even Awami League has said they want to hold a better election this time. Whatever the foreign countries want, whether just to carry out their agenda or not, the people of Bangladesh want a free and fair election participated by all. Despite various statements and counter statements between the ruling party leaders and BNP leaders, Awami League (AL) presidium member and agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque recently said talks may be held with BNP over the 12th parliamentary polls as the ruling party has kept the doors of dialogue open.

With the election nearing, Awami League and BNP, the two major political parties who were in power by turns, must reach a consensus for a free and fair election where people can exercise their franchise and they can cast their votes for whom they like. Any deviation of this may bring catastrophe for the country as well as the people. The sooner this is understood, the better!