12:46 AM, May 03, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:57 AM, May 03, 2013

Talks hope in sight

PM invites Khaleda; BNP wants formal invitation; Ashraf says offer by tomorrow

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Staff Correspondent

Talks hope in sight

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday called upon Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia to sit for a dialogue in or outside parliament to resolve the present political crisis.
In response, the main opposition BNP asked the government to send a written proposal.
Hours later, LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said if the BNP chief positively responded to the PM's call, the ruling Awami League would invite the opposition through a letter in a day or two.
Hasina's offer of talks came at a view-exchange meeting with Jhalakathi district AL leaders at Gono Bhaban.
She urged the opposition leader to sit for a dialogue whenever and wherever she (Khaleda) wanted.
“We want peace. We don't want to see more killings in the name of hartal. So, whatever demands you [Khaleda] have, put them on the table and we can discuss them. We will meet your demands and see what is good for the country and possible for us,” said Hasina, also president of the AL.
Parliament is the best and neutral place for a dialogue and the opposition leader could place her demands there anytime, she mentioned.
The prime minister thanked Khaleda for withdrawing yesterday's (May 2) hartal to facilitate the rescue operation at the Rana Plaza collapse site at Savar.
Calling off the hartal, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Tuesday hoped that the premier would take the initiative for holding a dialogue on the formation of an impartial caretaker polls-time government.
BNP's REACTION
Addressing a press conference at the BNP's Nayapaltan central office in the afternoon, BNP spokesperson Shamsuzzaman Dudu said the opposition party was ready for a dialogue but the government must extend a formal invitation to hold talks on a revival of the caretaker government system.
He also said the prime minister should first mention the issues she wanted to discuss with the BNP.
“If you [the government] have any objection to the phrase caretaker government, we can discuss a non-party interim polls-time government,” he added.
He called upon the government to free the jailed BNP leaders as a sign that it wanted to sit down for a dialogue with the opposition.
Talking to The Daily Star, BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed welcomed the premier's initiative.
There has to be an agenda to make the dialogue fruitful, he mentioned, adding that the government would have to agree in principle that the next general election would be held under a non-party caretaker government.
“We don't want to walk into a trap in the name of a dialogue when the anti-government movement demanding a restoration of the caretaker government system is gaining pace,” said the BNP lawmaker.
ASHRAF
Talking to journalists after a programme at the Officers' Club in the capital, Syed Ashraf, also AL general secretary, said, “The prime minister has urged the opposition leader to sit for a dialogue. We are waiting for a positive response from her. We hope we will reach a consensus on all issues to hold the next election in a free, fair and neutral manner.”
Queried if the caretaker government system would come back, he replied in the negative but said, “It wouldn't be difficult to find a solution over an election-time government if we sit for talks.”
GONO BHABAN MEET
At the view-exchange meet at Gono Bhaban, Hasina called upon Khaleda to join parliament. She said, “We have set an example. The speaker, prime minister, opposition leader and deputy leader of parliament -- all are women.”
“If you [Khaleda] come to parliament, there might be at least one picture of us together so that everyone can see the unprecedented example of empowerment of women we have set.”
She added that Khaleda could even appoint a woman deputy opposition leader.
Hasina criticised the opposition leader for bringing up false allegations against the government of concealing bodies recovered from the collapsed building site at Savar.
“The government is doing its best in the rescue operation. Hundreds of people along with television cameras and journalists have been there all the time and they can say whether the allegation is true,” she added.
About Khaleda's complaint that the government delayed launching the rescue operation, the prime minister said the government had sent rescue teams just 20 minutes into the incident.
About why the parliament session was not adjourned and the newly elected president took the oath of office after the nine-storey building caved in on April 24, Hasina said there should not be any disruption to state affairs.
AL leaders Amir Hossain Amu, Abdul Latif Siddiqui, Alauddin Ahmed, Mahbubul Alam Hanif and AFM Bahauddin Nasim were present, among others.

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