Talks to go on despite Awami, BNP boycott: Dhaka

May 30th, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 30 (IANS) Bangladesh’s caretaker government has said the political dialogue to prepare for elections would go on whether or not the parties of the two jailed former prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, joined in. It was “not important” who participated, and who did not, Hossain Zillur Rahman, commerce adviser in the government, said Thursday.

Rahman, who is leading the government delegation at the talks, was responding to officials of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Hasina’s Awami League (AL) stating that they would neither join the talks nor participate in the parliamentary elections due in December unless their leaders, facing graft charges, were released.

Rahman sought to downplay the decisions of the parties who have ruled the country by turn, saying “it should not be taken into account who attends it and who does not”, New Age newspaper reported Friday.

“The concept of major players in Bangladesh’s democracy is very dangerous. It should not be the main consideration who is attending the dialogue and who is not,” he said.

Calling for the release of his own chief, Zia, as also her political rival Hasina, BNP’s secretary general Khandaker Delawar Hossain asked: “Why should we talk to you? Who do you represent?”

The two women leaders and their parties have dismissed the graft charges as “politically motivated” and alleged that the interim government was holding them in detention and keeping them tied down in litigation to keep them out of the December polls.

Even as the dialogue dithers, the military-controlled government said it will hold a simultaneous dialogue with civic groups from next week to reach “a national consensus for bringing about qualitative changes in politics and governance”, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency said.

The BNP official asked the government to ditch the idea of holding the upazila (sub-district) elections that it plans to hold before the parliamentary polls.

Hossain said under the constitution, “the only job of the caretaker government is to assist the Election Commission in holding a free and fair parliamentary election and then transfer power to elected representatives”.

He wondered how the government could hold on to power when the three major political parties - BNP, Awami League and Jamaat-e-Islami - do not want this government to be in power.

Earlier reports have said that the government has roped in US Ambassador Richard Moriarty and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce of Industry leadership to get the parties to strike a compromise and join the talks.

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