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Oikya Front’s first option ‘dialogue’ exhausts: What next
Jatiya Oikya Front - File photo

Oikya Front’s first option ‘dialogue’ exhausts: What next

Dhaka, Nov 8 – Jatiya Oikya Front, led by Dr Kamal Hossain, placed three proposals, including an outline of the election-time government, during its second round of talks with the Prime Minister-led 14-party alliance on Wednesday, but none was accepted by the government. The opposition alliance strongly argued for dissolution of Parliament, reconstitution of the Election Commission and Khaleda Zia’s release, but could not reach a consensus with the 14-party leaders, JSD general secretary Abdul Malek Ratan said, a UNB report said.
Chief coordinator of the front and BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the key organizer of the front and Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman told journalists after Wednesday’s meeting that the second dialogue was not fruitful.
The outcomes of the second phase of dialogue were a) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s scheduled press conference to announce the outcome of the dialogue so far on Thursday was dropped while the Jatiya Oikya Jote postponed its announced programme of road march from Dhaka to Rajshahi on the same day. The front has planned its fourth rally in Rajshahi on Friday, November 9.
On the other hand, The Jukta Front led by Prof. Badruddoza Chowdhury and Jatiya Party of HM Ershad who also had dialogue with the government and expressed their readiness to take part in the election under the present setup went to the Election Commission and pressed for not deferring EC’s plan to announce the election schedule on Thursday. On the other, Awami League leaders led by chief adviser HT Imam also went to the EC and lent their support to the EC in announcing polls on the set time.
The dialogue so far has brought Prof. Badruddoza Chowdhury and his allies to the fold of the Awami League-led 14-party Alliance. HM Ershad-led JP had already been in the government alliance. The government has taken the dialogue period also as an opportunity to make the Hefazar-e-Islam led by Mufti Shah Ahmed Shafi and his followers to rally support to PM Sheikh Hasina and her government in return for recognition of Daora Hadit, the highest degree of the Qawmi Madrasah education system.
A Jatiya Oikya Front insider said during Wednesday’s second phase dialogue they discussed their various demands under three major points — neutral election-time government and dissolution of parliament, reconstitution of the Election Commission and creation of a level playing field. “We’re frustrated as we didn’t get positive results.”
Another Oikya Front leader, wishing anonymity, said Dr Kamal Hossain urged the Prime Minister to sit in talks further for resolving the contentious issues and paving the way for a meaningful election. “But the Prime Minister didn’t accept the suggestion but only hinted that informal discussions could be held,” he said.
He said the Oikyafront leaders placed an election-time government outline comprising 10 advisers, and a chief adviser, to be constituted by the President after the dissolution of Parliament, but the 14-party leaders rejected it.
The Oikya Front leader also said Parliament can be dissolved as per the section 123 (3) (B) and the election can be held in the last week of February or in early March.
In reply, the Prime Minister said it is now not possible to dissolve Parliament and the government has nothing to do with the deferment of the election schedule since it is the jurisdiction of the Election Commission.
Another Oikya Front leader said the Prime Minister urged them to join the polls assuring that it will be free and fair. “Keep trust in me as the election will be fair,” he quoted the Prime Minister as saying. He said they also placed a proposal for the reconstitution of the Election Commission.
The Oikya Front leader mentioned that in their proposal they said at least the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) can resign as per section 118 (6) of the Constitution and the President can appoint a new CEC based on discussions with the political parties.
But most of the 14-party leaders opposed the proposal, saying a fair election is possible by the current CEC, he added. The Oikyafront leader said they also placed a proposal with some demands for creating a level playing field during the election.
As per their demands, they said Khaleda Zia must be released from jail on bail and it is possible if the Attorney General and the state lawyers do not oppose her bail petitions.
He said they also demanded the release of the political leaders who are in jail on various charges, except those in killing and rape cases. They also demanded the guarantee for exercising their rights to hold rallies and political programmes. Their some other demands include taking steps to stop leakage of telephonic conversation and cancellation of the decision of using EVMs in the election.
In response to the proposal and demands on the level-playing field, the 14-party leaders assured the Oikyafront leaders that a level playing field will be created as MPs and ministers will have no authority during polls. They also said they will assist the EC to ensure a level playing field.
Besides, the Prime Minister assured the Oikyafront leaders of taking steps to stop the arrest of their leaders and withdraw false cases. She, however, said the court will decide on Khaleda issue, the source said.
Against this backdrop, the Jatiya Oikya Front leaders look like have to unfurl their option two which, in their words, is ‘not to give the ruling party a vacant field for a walkover like in 2014’ while continuing the movement to ‘restore the ownership of the state’ to the people. In other words, they have to set up and field candidates to contest the election while keeping up the tempo of movement at the same time. For now, their concentration is on the November 9 mass rally in Rajshahi, and likely response to Election Commission’s polls schedule to be announced late Thursday.
On Wednesday at the beginning of the second phase of talks, an Oikyafront leader said, Dr Kamal Hossain told the Prime Minister that they came to hear from her on their seven-point demand, but the Prime Minister urged the Oikyafront leaders to speak first.
At one stage of the talks, Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed said Oikyafront’s formula on the election-time government cannot be accepted as it will only create a constitutional crisis.
BNP leader Moudud Ahmed said their proposal can be accepted in line with the Constitution and it will not create a crisis.
At one stage, Moudud and Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader exchanged some heated words over their local politics.
As Moudud said he cannot go to his village home due to police harassment, Quader said he had also faced the same problem during BNP’s rule.
The Prime Minister concluded the dialogue with her speech and she warned that she will not allow anyone to implement any plot to foil the election.
After the talks, Awami League’s advisory council member Tofail Ahmed said Oiky Front placed some unconstitutional proposals and statements that are not acceptable.
He also said the dialogue is over but they will not have any objection if the Oikyafront leaders want to sit with them after the announcement of the election schedule.
Oikyafront leader Mahmudur Rahman Manna said they discussed many things but did not find any solution. GreenWatch Dhaka Newsdesk with UNB