Who to head it is main hurdle

History to revisit as Khaleda responds to PM’s proposal today

Shakhawat Liton and Hasan Jahid Tusher

In response to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s offer to form an all-party government to oversee the national election, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia may give a proposal today for making a non-partisan person the head of that polls-time administration.
If Hasina agrees in principle to the proposal, Khaleda will respond positively to her archrival’s latest offer, said a BNP policymaker, mentioning the decisions made at Saturday’s meeting of the BNP standing committee.
On the other hand, ruling Awami League leaders said Hasina would be at the helm of the election-time government.
They, however, said if BNP agrees to get to the negotiating table and refuses to accept Hasina as the head of the interim government, the AL might propose Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, also an AL lawmaker, for the post, said sources in the AL.
But they wouldn’t accept any proposal for making a non-partisan person the prime minister of the polls-time government, said the sources.
Observing the current situation, political analysts now predict a re-enactment of previous political scenes where Hasina and Khaleda only swapped their stances over the issue of election-time government.
About 18 years ago, the then prime minister Khaleda didn’t accept a proposal from Hasina, then in opposition, for making a non-partisan person the head of the election-time government to break the political stalemate.
During the 1995 impasse over national election, Hasina, who then led the opposition’s agitation for introducing caretaker government system, made the proposal to a group of five eminent citizens that was negotiating with the two leaders to resolve the crisis.
The group included former chief justice Kemal Uddin Hossain, Prof Rehman Sobhan and Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed.
Following their persuasion, Khaleda agreed to step down as prime minister but gave a condition that a BNP lawmaker would be the head of the interim government.
Subsequently, their move failed to break the political deadlock, and the then BNP-led government held the controversial February 15 election in 1996 amid a boycott by other major political parties.
After 18 years, Khaleda and her party expect Hasina to accept the proposal for making a non-partisan person the head of the election-time government.
In her address to the nation on Friday, Hasina proposed forming an all-party election-time government and urged BNP to nominate its lawmakers for inclusion in the interim cabinet.
Hasina, however, didn’t specify the size of the cabinet and its scope of work or who would head the cabinet. It wasn’t clear from her speech when the interim cabinet would be formed.
However, from the following day, some ministers and senior AL leaders have been saying that Hasina would lead the interim cabinet.
“We want Sheikh Hasina as the head of the interim government. However, the scope for discussions on the issue is there, albeit on a limited scale,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters yesterday at his secretariat office.
AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam has been given the responsibility for holding discussions with the BNP and other political parties to end the political impasse, said Muhith.
AL Presidium Member Kazi Zafarullah told The Daily Star that Ashraf, also the LGRD and cooperatives minister, would brief foreign diplomats on the government’s stance on the next election, polls-time government and parliamentary issues.
If the BNP agrees to get to the negotiating table, the issue of an all-party election-time government could be discussed, he said.
In her address to the nation, Hasina requested Khaleda to respond to her call.
Khaleda will clarify today her party’s stance on Hasina’s proposal and the opposition’s demand for a non-partisan government to oversee the next election, said BNP insiders.
“If Sheikh Hasina agrees to the proposal for making a non-partisan person the prime minister, we are open to discussions on how to appoint the head of the interim government,” said a BNP policymaker, who attended Saturday’s meeting of the BNP standing committee.
The BNP doesn’t consider the appointment of other members of the interim cabinet a major issue, said the BNP policymaker, asking not to be named.
Following the discussions at Saturday’s meeting, the BNP drafted proposals that the party chief might announce today at a press conference, according to BNP insiders.
Speaking at a convention of pro-BNP professionals yesterday, Khaleda said she would hold a press conference today and would speak in detail about the election-time government and other crucial issues.

Source: The Daily Star