Giving people hope, the long-awaited contact has been established between the two major political rivals in the country, courtesy of a BNP letter to the Awami League and the latter’s phone call to the former.
However, talks still remain uncertain with both camps sticking to their stance.
Prime Minister and AL President Sheikh Hasina and BNP Chairperson and leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia have already dismissed each other’s proposal on the election-time government.
Political analysts say the two parties are speaking in favour of talks under tremendous pressures form different quarters, particularly the donor countries.
The latest efforts for talks at the level of second-in-command now remind many of Jalil-Mannan meeting at the end of 2006, they add.
The then BNP secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and AL general secretary Abdul Jalil entered a dialogue amid growing political crisis centring on the parliamentary election. The ruling BNP had moved first for the talks.
After several sittings, the two leaders assured people of headway in resolving the political impasse and at the same time confided to foreign diplomats that no substantive progress was made.
Both were sticking to their guns and the talks failed.
This time, it was not the ruling party that made the first move, though the AL general secretary was assigned by the party chief more than a week ago to take steps for talks with the BNP.
Hasina also told her cabinet colleagues on Monday that she would telephone her archrival Khaleda anytime soon.
The BNP-led opposition alliance, however, did not wait for the ruling party. It wrote to the AL calling for talks on Khaleda Zia’s proposal for a non-partisan election-time government.
“We have long been urging the government to move for talks. But we took the first step to get some extra mileage from the political situation,” a senior BNP leader told The Daily Star yesterday, on condition of anonymity.
“Now the Awami League has to respond positively. Otherwise, it will have to shoulder the blame for failure to resolve the political crisis.”
On behalf of the opposition combine, a three-member BNP delegation went to AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam’s Minto Road residence around 11:00am and handed over the letter.
Around 11:30am, Syed Ashraf over the phone thanked BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and said he would notify Hasina about the letter.
When Ashraf made the phone call, Fakhrul was addressing a press conference at Khaleda’s Gulshan office criticising the law enforcers for “attacks” on BNP chief’s staff near the party headquarters at Nayapaltan Monday night.
“We have taken a step forward. I hope you will do the same,” a smiling Fakhrul said while speaking on the phone. “We hope you will consider the letter with importance and will begin the talks.”
Fakhrul sent the letter a day after Khaleda proposed for a non-partisan polls-time government headed by a respected person chosen through consensus between the ruling and opposition parties.
She suggested the AL and the BNP choose five each from the former advisers of the 1996 and 2001 caretaker governments to form a 10-member advisory council.
In the letter, Fakhrul said the BNP chief placed the proposal, seeking consideration of the prime minister, to end the ongoing political stalemate.
He requested Ashraf to take initiative for talks over the proposal.
“We would be very delighted if they [AL] accept our proposal. We hope it will open the door to dialogues,” the BNP leader said at the briefing. “All of us want to resolve the ongoing political impasse through mutual understanding.”