Key UN official Oscar Fernández-Taranco arrived in Dhaka yesterday on a four-day whirlwind visit to hold talks with political leaders to figure out a mutually acceptable formula to holding an “inclusive, non-violent and credible” election.
Diplomatic circle considers the visit of Taranco, the UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, highly significant as it is apparently the last-ditch diplomatic effort to encourage all interlocutors for dialogues to hold the polls.
He landed at 7:55pm yesterday, leading a five-member high-profile political mission.
Ahead of his visit, the government has outright turned down the UN envoy’s request to meet President Abdul Hamid and Chief of Army Staff General Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan.
However, Taranco is scheduled to meet twice Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia when he would convey each other’s messages mainly to encourage dialogues for a peaceful solution.
In his first phase of meetings, the UN official is set to meet the PM at her official residence Gono Bhaban at 4:00pm and the BNP chairperson at 6:30pm today.
Taranco had earlier visited Dhaka in December last year and May this year to work out a solution to the same political crisis “at the request” of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Other members of the delegation are two senior officials from the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), a director from the Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) and a senior mediation expert of the UN.
In addition to meeting with the PM and the BNP chief, the UN envoy would also hold talks with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, leaders of the major political parties and representatives of the civil society and the media.
Asked about the reasons of the government denial to give appointments with the president and the army chief, a senior official at the foreign ministry yesterday told The Daily Star that the meeting with the president could not be fixed as he [president] was in Singapore for medical checkup.
The official added the UN office wanted an appointment for Oscar with the army chief to discuss security issues during the polls.
The government thought there was no necessity for the UN official to meet the army chief as the entire administration and security goes under the Election Commission during polls, said the official, adding, so the government suggested that the UN official meets the CEC.
According to today’s programme schedule, the UN official would meet the foreign secretary at 10:00am and the foreign minister at 10:30am at the foreign ministry.
Before meeting the premier, Taranco would hold separate meetings with Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam and BNP’s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
He would meet the CEC tomorrow at 12:00noon.