Bangladesh: Government looks to talk with opposition BNP as unrest continues

Bangladesh government on Tuesday said it may consider holding a dialogue with the opposition BNP only if it makes a written pledge to shun violence and cut ties with “militants”, amid the nationwide blockade and protests by the party which has claimed 14 lives in the past week.

“If it wants a dialogue, BNP will have to make a written pledge that they will stop terrorism, cut ties with militants and ask courteously…we will consider their proposal,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s political adviser HT Imam. Imam, however, added the government did not feel the need for any talks with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The remarks by Iman came two days after top BNP leader Rafiqul Islam Mia after meeting party chief Khaleda Zia asked party members to continue the blockade unless the government agrees for talks.

The BNP has been unrelenting over the massive street protest launched to mark the first anniversary of the controversial January 5 elections it had boycotted demanding a neutral caretaker government to oversee the polls.
Hasina and her party leaders have said they do not plan to hold talks with the BNP, which has insisted on fresh polls. At least 14 people have been killed during the current spate of unrest that began on January 5. Reports said 305 people, including 90 policemen, have also been injured. More than 105 vehicles have been torched and 122 others smashed in the past seven days.

On Tuesday the protesters set ablaze a truck carrying books for school children in central Chandpur district. In the capital Dhaka, blasts rocked a reunion event of medical students who were joined by Health Minister Mohammad Nasim. No one was injured in the explosions, though. BNP boycotted last year’s election saying polls under the ruling Awami League would not be fair and demanded restoration of a non-party caretaker government for election oversight.

Awami League during its 2008-2013 rule scrapped the system through a majority in Parliament, in line with a Supreme Court verdict that called the provision “unconstitutional.” In 2013, more than 500 people were killed in political violence, making it the bloodiest year since 1971 when Bangladesh got its independence from Pakistan. Hasina, on her part, has repeatedly said that the BNP must wait until the next general elections in 2019 to test its popularity. Imam, too, reiterated the government stand on fresh general elections, saying mid-term polls would not be held. “The government can host an interim election anytime, if it wishes. But, that depends on the desire of the government.” Hasina, in an address on January 5, advised Zia to reorganise her party for future, shunning the “path of violence.”

Source: DNA India


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