Cut ties with Jamaat
Several European and Asian diplomats have suggested that BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia part company with the Jamaat-e-Islami permanently and immediately stop her elder son Tarique Rahman from making political statements from abroad.
They have also asked the government to stop arrests and harassment of BNP leaders and let Khaleda Zia move about freely in order to create an atmosphere for a dialogue with the ruling Awami League.
However, the latest position of the US on the Jamaat could not be known. The superpower has repeatedly condemned in the strongest terms the violence but has never said anything about the Jamaat's complicity in the violence.
Observing the recent violent state of politics in Bangladesh, the European and Asian diplomats have drawn the conclusion that the BNP's key ally Jamaat-e-Islami is a terrorist organisation and, therefore, the BNP as a democratic party should not associate with a party like the Jamaat.
“It appears to us that for the last few months, whatever the Jamaat did in the name of demonstration, they have resorted to terrorism,” said a European diplomat who has met Khaleda Zia after the January 5 election. He requested anonymity.
“Whatever the Jamaat did, they did it to protect the war criminals. Their acts were not political but terrorism,” he said, adding that this sentiment was conveyed to Khaleda.
But they do not think that banning the Jamaat at this moment is a good idea.
“Banning Jamaat right now can put them under some other fold. It's better to isolate the party so that it dare not resort to extremism or terrorism with help from other political forces,” said the European diplomat.
They also have strong reservations about Tarique Rahman and his recent video speeches. They told Khaleda Zia that his speeches would not help the BNP resume a dialogue with the ruling Awami League but would rather make the situation more complex.
“It seems that he [Tarique] is making provocations -- which are not helpful to initiate a dialogue with the government,” said another European ambassador while referring to Tarique's YouTube speeches.
The diplomats emphatically told Khaleda that violence was not an acceptable element of the political process and the opposition should completely stop any sort of violence during the political programmes.
Regarding the Jamaat, Khaleda told one ambassador that she needed to discuss the matter with her party leaders first. But the government had arrested most of them and she was also not allowed to contact any party leaders.
About Tarique, she simply listened but gave no clear reply.
In addition, the foreign diplomats conveyed the message to the ruling party that the government should immediately free Khaleda Zia from her current “confinement” and release the senior leaders of the BNP to engage them in a meaningful dialogue.
They said the opposition leader was apparently under “house arrest” as she was not being allowed to go out and meet anybody, except for foreign envoys.
“She is completely disconnected and not able to know what is happening outside,” said an envoy who met Khaleda last week.
He termed the government action “unacceptable” because the government cannot curb political space in such a way.
Most ambassadors and high commissioners in Dhaka have decided to meet Khaleda Zia regularly apparently to mount pressure on the government to create adequate political space for the opposition, he added.
Another European ambassador said the European Union will come up with a concrete statement about the 10th parliamentary election as well as the situation in Bangladesh and might call for reconciliation between the ruling and opposition parties through fresh elections which will be “inclusive, peaceful and credible”.
If the EU calls go unheeded, the EU may gradually go for imposing various restrictions and limit diplomatic engagements with the government.
He said most European envoys in Dhaka have already sent their reports to their countries and also EU headquarters in Brussels on elections in Bangladesh.
The reports highlight the extremely poor turnout that has not reflected voters' will and violence, especially against religious minorities.