Awami League holds talks with government in Bangladesh

April 13th, 2008 - 11:46 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, April 13 (IANS) Representatives of Bangladesh’s caretaker government and the largest party, the Awami League, held table talks Sunday, ending a prolonged stand-off ahead of the general elections promised for this year-end. The agenda of the talks was not announced. But political sources said the Awami League leaders demanded unconditional release of their leader, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been in jail since July last year and is ailing.

Her medical treatment while in detention and whether she could be released on parole to go abroad for treatment have been contentious issues.

Earlier in the day, Hasina was at the city’s private Square Hospital for a medical check-up and was back in the special jail where she has been housed in the country’s parliament complex.

It is likely that the talks may pave the way for Hasina’s visit to the US, where her son Sajib Joy has reportedly made arrangements for her treatment.

The Awami League announced Saturday that the agenda for the talks would include Hasina’s release, the spiralling of prices of essential commodities, withdrawal of the emergency imposed in January last year, and announcement of poll dates.

The parleys have been described as “pre-dialogue talks”. The government has already held such talks, without preconditions and formal invitation, with some other political parties in the recent weeks.

But it withstood demands for a formal invitation for talks from the Awami League. The government has won the round, political analysts said.

The government has also not given in to the demand by various parties that curbs on political activity, imposed in January last year, be relaxed to facilitate internal discussions by parties preparing for talks with the government.

The talks marked a reversal of the stand that the Awami League earlier took Wednesday. Its highest policy making body had decided not to talk to the government unless it received a formal invitation.

After a prolonged standoff, the government agreed to send a fax message. But since the acting President Zillur Rahman does not have a fax connection at home, an SMS was sent on his movile phone Saturday, New Age newspaper said.

A seven-member delegation headed by senior Awami League presidium member Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury took part in the discussion, star Online reported Sunday.

Elections were called off amidst political turmoil last year after which a state of emergency was imposed, curbing all type of political activity.

The caretaker government of chief advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed has withstood demands at home and pressures from the international community to hold early polls, saying it would hold them only in December this year.

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