Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday called for a consensus over the issue of a polls-time government through talks with the BNP, but ruled out the formation of an unelected government.
She also called upon the BNP-led opposition alliance and Hefajat-e Islam to postpone their today's and tomorrow's rally and Dhaka siege programme considering the Savar tragedy.
Hasina, who is also president of the ruling Awami League, was speaking at a press conference at her Gono Bhaban residence, where editors, senior journalists and reporters were present.
In her nearly 40-minute speech, the prime minister highlighted details of the proposed dialogue with the main opposition party and the rescue operation taking place in Savar since the nine-storey Rana Plaza collapsed on April 24.
The PM also clarified her administration's position on the Hefajat's 13-point demand.
On the proposed talks, Hasina said she wanted no pre-condition, although the BNP leaders had made it known that talks were possible only if the government accepted their demand of a restoration of the caretaker government.
“There is no logic behind placing any condition. It is very sad,” she said, adding that the opposition would be given the proposal formally at an "appropriate time".
“And everything will be settled through discussions.”
AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam told The Daily Star after the press conference that the ruling party was preparing the formal letter to be given to the opposition party soon.
Asked if there could be a solution within the constitutional framework about the polls-time government and its formation, Hasina told the press conference she had no objection to forming an interim government comprising elected representatives of all parties.
On whether she was determined not to restore the caretaker government system, Hasina said she was not "rigid" in her attitude towards anything in her personal life.
“I want solution and compromise in moving forward. It's not true that I'm rigid,” she said, adding that she had urged the opposition leader to sit for talks as people were being killed in the name of hartal and movement by the BNP, which must stop.
The PM said she did not want a non-party caretaker government to assume power as it might present more danger than by the one in 2007, which wanted to implement the "minus-two" formula.
She wondered why Khaleda was "so eager" to bring an unelected government to power.
Referring to various attempts to kill her, including the August 21 grenade attack in 2004, the prime minister alleged, “She [Khaleda] wanted to kill me, but failed. She also tried to save the killers of my parents and four national leaders…Even after all these we want to sit for a dialogue with them in the interest of the country so that democracy continues.”
About the formation of an election-time government, Hasina said parliament would not sit during the 90 days of the polls period as per the 15th amendment to the constitution. There will also be no cabinet meeting after the declaration of the election schedule.
Saying that the leader of the house, leader of the opposition, deputy leader of the house and the Speaker in the country were now all women, she urged Khaleda, who is the leader of the opposition in parliament, to join parliament so they can have their picture taken for record. The PM described it as unprecedented in the world's history.
Speaking of the Rana Plaza disaster, she said the garment owners of the building were responsible for the collapse.
The day before the collapse a crack was found at the building and industrial police asked the factories not to operate, she said, adding: "But the factory owners decided to operate their units. When they started their generators, the building caved in. It is unexpected that so many people should have lost their lives."
Thanking citizens for joining the rescue operation, the PM said, "It made history and showed that Bangladesh can deal with a disaster. It will remain an example for us [to follow]."
Shah Ahmad Shafi, ameer of the Hefajat-e-Islam, rejected the PM's call for postponing his organisation's Dhaka siege programme, saying transport on the Savar route would remain out of the purview of the blockade.
In a statement, he termed Hasina's speech confusing and said there was nothing in it to convince the Hefajat to call off its programme.
He alleged the PM had tried to give a false interpretation of the 13-point demand.
BNP spokesperson Shamsuzzaman Dudu said BNP chief Khaleda Zia would give her reaction to the PM's speech at today's rally.
On Hasina's call for postponing the rally, he said theirs was a three-hour programme, which would not create any problem.