Though the initiative for talks between the ruling and opposition parties looks to be a very positive development in the country’s’ political landscape, noted political observers and analysts are skeptical about any dramatic outcome of it unless both sides demonstrate their prudence.
Talking to UNB, former Vice Chancellor (VC) of Dhaka University (DU) Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, another DU ex-VC Prof Emajuddin Ahmed, Columnist Syed Abul Maksud, election expert Dr Tofail Ahmed and ex-election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain, said the success of the talks depends on sincerity and liberal stance of both sides on their current positions.
They also think the government may accept some demands of Oikyafront, including dissolution of parliament and refraining from EVM use in the next election, but the issue of installing an election-time neutral government may be the apple of discord of the talks.
Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent a letter to Dr Kamal Hossain inviting Oikyafront leaders to join dialogue at Ganobhaban on Thursday, aiming to continue the democratic trend in the country, but under no pressure.
He also said Awami League is going to sit with Oikyafront, not with BNP, and expect all the problems to be solved on the dialogue table.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said there is a question in public mind about the government sincerity to make the talks fruitful under the current context of politics. “If we join the dialogue, we’ll be hell bent on our seven-point demand.”
The Oikyafront’s seven-point demand includes installation of a neutral interim government, dissolution of parliament, reconstitution the Election Commission, release of all the political prisoners, deployment of army and cancellation of the move to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS) for holding the next polls in fair and acceptable manner.
Prof Arefin Siddique said the Prime Minister demonstrated her good will for positive politics by responding to Oikyafront’s proposal for holding talks.
He said Oikyafront now has to play the main role in making the talks a success as they themselves sought the discussion.
“The main challenge for the success of the talks is to reach a consensus over an acceptable way for holding the next polls in a credible manner within the framework of the Constitution,” Prof Arefin observes.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to uphold the Constitution, and there is no way to go beyond the Constitution. So, Oikyafront must come up with acceptable proposals that won’t conflict with the Constitution,” he said.
Prof Emajuddin Ahmed said it is a very positive and well-thought-out decision of the Prime Minister. “I welcome it. I’m not sure what will be outcome of the dialogue, but it’s a beginning of good politics which may bring a positive change in our politics.”
He said both the ruling and Oikyafront leaders will have to soften their current stances for making the talks a success. “It’s not necessary that all the demands will have to be met. But both sides must reach an agreement on some crucial points for holding a credible general election.”
Syed Abul Maksud said if both the ruling and opposition parties sit in talks with sincerity, it will surely help resolve the current political crisis to some extent.
He thinks one sitting is not enough to find effective ways to resolve the prickly issues centring the next polls. “The talks will be successful if both parties show their liberal attitude and political wisdom. The government needs not to accept all the demands, but should accept the reasonable ones.”
Abul Maksud analyst said the government may agree to some Oikyafront demands, including the dissolution of parliament.He, however, said both sides may face difficulties over the issue of installation an election-time neutral government.
Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said it is definitely a very encouraging development in politics as the Prime Minister is going to meet at least one demand of the opposition for talks. “I think when the both the ruling and opposition parties engage in talks, something good will surely come out of it.”
Both sides should reach an agreement on at least minimum ground, if it is not possible on maximum ground, to hold a credible and peaceful election as per people’s desire, he said.
Dr Tofail Ahmed said many things can be achieved from the dialogue if both sides sit in the talks with sincerity and sacrificing attitude.
“I’m personally hopeful that the talks will yield some positive outcomes as Prime Minister herself will be present there. But any dramatic result may not come out from one sitting,” he added.