Businesss community roped in for Bangladesh political talks

May 29th, 2008 - 3:04 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 29 (IANS) The interim government in Bangladesh has involved the business community and diplomats in an effort to persuade leaders of the two principal parties to join in the political dialogue to prepare for elections this year. However, the political dialogue could be stalled by demands for the release of the jailed former prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, who are facing trial in graft cases.

Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Hasina’s Awami League (AL) took identical ‘no-freedom-no-talks’ positions as the dialogue entered the fourth day Thursday.

Media reports said the government has launched backroom parleys with leaders of the political parties.

“It will not be wise to take anything negatively,” Hossain Zillur Rehman, minister for commerce and the main spokesperson of the government in the talks, told reporters after a meeting with business leaders led by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Annisul Huq, who expressed doubts over the country’s political future.

“The situation is becoming more complex… The future seems foggy to me. If the situation becomes more complicated, the nation and the business community, in particular, will be in trouble,” Huq said.

“The parties will naturally want their leaders to be freed, but they should also realise that they have to resolve the problem through discussions,” he added.

US Ambassador James F. Moriarty told the press Wednesday that there is room for compromise. “I hope to see a comprise in the next weeks or months. But I don’t know what would be the compromise, it’s up to the people to decide,” Moriarty said.

The political parties have so far all demanded lifting of curbs on their activities and of the national emergency, if the elections that are to take place in December and be free and fair.

The government “is shaken but still optimistic” about the dialogue with the major parties, The Daily Star newspaper said Thursday.

The government is under pressure at home and from the international community to talk to politicians and prepare for a credible election.

The US, Britain and the European Union ministers and officials have cautioned the military-backed regime against extending its rule, stating that it would invite political instability and keep investors away.

The fourth day’s dialogue was with the Islami Shashantantra Andolon, an Islamist party that was recently at the forefront of the violent protests against the Women Development Policy 2008.

The top policy making body of the Awami League met through this week to chart its course of action, including street protests that are disallowed under the emergency curbs.

Hasina has been in jail since July, and Zia since September. Trials have begun in some of the cases charging them with corruption, nepotism and misuse of office.

Hasina’s political associates and Zia’s two sons are in jail.

The two have denied the charges as “politically motivated” and allege conspiracy by the government of Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed to keep them tied down in litigation and in jail, so that they could be disqualified from contesting the December elections.

The dates when the two parties would be invited for talks are not known since the invitation is “informal”, media reports said.

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