It was the conversation the nation had eagerly waited for — but listening through the more than 37 minutes of the Hasina-Khaleda conversation would not inspire much hope for a country desperately looking for political reconciliation.
bdnews24.com has a copy of the audio-tape and can now vouch for its authenticity.
Almost one-third of the conversation involved trading charges over Khaleda’s red telephone which she said had been out of order for a while.
Hasina insisted she had herself called that telephone repeatedly — Khaleda kept insisting it did not ring and doubted how Hasina could hear the ring if it was out of order.
If telephones are out of order, they do give out a false ring — but Khaleda would not relent.
Much of the rest of the conversation centred round charges of promoting terror — state terror or through the party organisation.
“I have lost my hearing after the Aug 21 grenade attack,” Hasina reminded Khaleda that this had happened when she was Prime Minister.
Khaleda charged back — “this grenade attack was your own handiwork”.
And she started attacking the Prime Minister for violence by Chhatra League and Juba League, both affiliates of Awami League.
The few minutes the two leaders could concentrate on the immediate issue of holding polls made it clear Khaleda would not concede her demand for a caretaker, while Hasina insisted on an all-party government.
Hasina kept requesting Khaleda to withdraw the 60-hour strike.
Khaleda kept saying this was not possible and it was too late in the day because she needed to call a meeting of the 18-Party alliance to withdraw the strike.
“My leaders are all away in the districts to enforce the strike and would not be easy to contact. It is too late for me to call off the strike now,” Khaleda said.
As the Prime Minister kept insisting on withdrawing the strike, Khaleda shot back: “Ok, you agree to discuss the neutral caretaker system for holding polls, I will call off the strike now, right now.”
That was provocation for Hasina.
“Don’t let the proponents of Minus 2 formula back in power, don’t bring back to power the likes of Fakhruddin,” Hasina shot back, referring to the 2007-8 military-backed caretaker government chief Fakhruddin Ahmed.
But Khaleda was unmoved.
“If you agree on caretaker on principle, I will call off the strike right now. Otherwise, you have to wait until our strike is over on Tuesday,” she kept saying.
“Why don’t you agree to an all-party interim body to conduct the polls? Don’t you trust your own people?” Hasina retorted.
“I do trust my people but what I have told you is final — agree to caretaker and I withdraw the strike or wait until Tuesday, after which we can talk,” said Khaleda.
But will a road to reconciliation emerge from any dialogue if it happens after Tuesday, if the two leading ladies stick to their guns the way they did during the telephone conversation?
The answer to that is what Bangladesh is waiting for.
Source: Bd news24