Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina holds rare talks with opposition front

Dhaka, BangladeshUpdated: Nov 02, 2018, 01:32 PM IST
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File photo of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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Hasina held the crucial talks with the newly-formed opposition National Unity Front (NUF), which includes the BNP of Zia, over the parliamentary elections scheduled for December.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday promised to ensure credibility of the upcoming general elections but declined to accept the opposition's demand for freeing imprisoned ex-premier Khaleda Zia ahead of the polls as she held rare talks with an opposition front.

Hasina held the crucial talks with the newly-formed opposition National Unity Front (NUF), which includes the BNP of Zia, over the parliamentary elections scheduled for December.

PM Hasina assured them of staging fair and credible elections beyond government influence, ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader told newsmen.

He said the dialogue was held in a very cordial and friendly atmosphere when we agreed on some points? and agreed to continue talks whenever the discussions were required.

The door for discussions will remain open and the dialogue will continue, Quader, also the road transport minister told the media briefing.

NUF convenor and prominent lawyer Kamal Hossain, who led the opposition platform in the talks, in a brief comment said it was a good discussion when we understood her (Hasina's) mind and she understood ours.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said "we are not satisfied" but added, "you can't achieve everything overnight, it is a continuous process".

The NUF emerged earlier this month as an opposition platform and floated a seven-point demand that includes dissolution of parliament to pave way for a poll-time interim government for holding a credible election.

BNP, however, insisted that the release of their party chief Zia, now serving 10-year imprisonment, was a must for the "level playing field? in the polls.

But Quader said during the talks the premier "clearly told pointing Kamal and Alamgir that the Zia was sentenced to jail terms in graft cases which was filed during the past interim government and not framed by us."

He said Hasina, however, told the NUF leaders to provide to her a list of cases against the Opposition leaders which they thought are politically motivated and assured to review them.

Quader said the NUF proposal for dissolving parliament was not acceptable. 

The ruling Awami League's decision to hold talks with the NUF at Ganobhaban (PM's official residence) was a dramatic development as the party had earlier rejected scopes for such talks exclusively with BNP, but responded quickly to the NUF's proposal for the dialogue four days ago.

Rightwing BNP is the main Opposition party despite having no representation in parliament but Hossain leads the Opposition platform NUF, which also comprises several Left-leaning political groups and individuals as civil society representatives. 

Hossain is a former senior Awam League leader who voluntarily quit the party in early 1990s and subsequently floated his Gano Forum as a socio-political group.

He was a former Awami League leader who led a parliamentary group in framing the post independent Bangladesh's Constitution.

Political analysts said the NUF so far could not take any political shape as it accommodated groups and individuals having contradictory views and ideologies with Hossain being its convenor.

BNP stayed away from the last parliamentary election in 2014 when that demand was not met and waged a violent street campaign in subsequent three years that saw deaths of scores.