Inching back to ’96?

inching back

Around 18 years ago, the then prime minister Khaleda Zia asserted that if opposition parties boycotted the national election, the BNP would proceed with its plan to hold the polls in line with the constitution.
In October 1995, she conveyed to a group of five eminent citizens her determination to hold the parliamentary election under her government even if the Awami League and other major parties, agitating for a polls-time caretaker government, didn’t participate in the election.
The eminent citizens, including former chief justice Kemal Uddin Hossain, Prof Rehman Sobhan and Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed, moved to engage Khaleda and Sheikh Hasina in a dialogue to resolve the political crisis over polls-time government, according to the book “The Ishtiaq Papers” by Ishtiaq Ahmed.
They held a series of meetings with Khaleda and Hasina, then in opposition, to find a solution acceptable to both sides. But talks between the two top leaders were not held, as they both stuck to their positions.
Terming the proposal for caretaker government unconstitutional, Khaleda refused to pay heed to the opposition’s demand. And her government dissolved the then parliament without resolving the issue of polls-time government.
A constitutional provision made it obligatory to hold the parliamentary election within 90 days since the dissolution of parliament.
Finally, her government held a farcical parliamentary election on February 15, 1996 amid boycott by the AL, the Jatiya Party and other political parties. The BNP and only a few nondescript parties took part in the polls.
Hasina, the incumbent prime minister, seems to be moving ahead with a plan to hold a one-sided election.
The premier continues to defend the current constitutional provision that allows her government to stay in power during the polls. She is determined to hold the election within 90 days between October 27 and January 24 no matter whether the BNP-led alliance joins it or not.
The ruling AL is making preparations for the election while the BNP-led 18-party combine is gearing up for agitation to resist polls under the Hasina-led government.
The opposition has already announced boycotting the polls if not held under a non-party government.
At a cabinet meeting on Monday, Hasina talked about her plan to form an all-party polls-time government by mid-November, whether the BNP joins it or not.
She wants the election-time cabinet to start functioning under her leadership immediately after the Election Commission announces the polls schedule in the second week of next month.
Hasina told them that lawmakers of different political parties, except for the Jamaat-e-Islami, will be included in the interim cabinet.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu urged Khaleda to act promptly to join talks over the polls-time government.
“If Khaleda Zia misses the dialogue train, she will also miss the election train. The polls will be held in line with the constitution for continuation of democracy.”
On Saturday, Hasina phoned Khaleda and invited her to the Gono Bhaban for talks on Monday evening. The dialogue didn’t take place, as they couldn’t reach a consensus on the date and contents of the meeting.

Source: The Daily Star

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