Dhaka, Bangladesh
PM invites JOF for dialogue tomorrow

PM invites JOF for dialogue tomorrow

Dr Kamal hopes to cut Gordian knot over polls, so does US envoy

News Special Amid hope and despair, Jatiya Oikya Front leaders are going to dialogue with the government tomorrow evening trying to cut the Gordian knot facing another election nearby. A spark of hope is generated by the prime minister's invitation for them to the talks in an apparent fast reversal of pessimism overshadowing the political arena so long while a sense of despair makes the main opposition force downhearted with the double jailing of the former premier and their de-facto chief. The stage is expeditiously set. Three past days make a gulf difference in the mode: from a note of acrimony to harmony. Front leader Dr Kamal Hossain wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also President of the ruling Awami League, Sunday seeking dialogue on their seven-point demands for resolving the electoral issues. Sharp came a reply the following day, accepting the proposal. And the day after, Tuesday, the prime minister in writing invited the JOF to the proposed dialogue set for tomorrow at 7pm at Ganobhaban. The developments not only generated hope in the political arena but also in the diplomatic circles in Dhaka, as is evident from instant observations. Dr Kamal holds the belief that problems centering round the upcoming general election can be sorted out through such discussion. "We're trying on. You see, here it starts," the eminent jurist retorted to queries from inquisitive reports Tuesday when they wanted to know if it would be possible to resolve the prevailing political crisis that had held the opposition away from the last polls, too. Outgoing US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat welcomed the proposed dialogue between the government and the newly formed Jatiya Oikya Front. "I am optimistic," she told reporters after her farewell meeting with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali at the State Guesthouse Padma. "We the citizens in the democracy have every responsibility to demand of our government to give us conditions to choose anyone to lead us," said the envoy about the practice back home, in the United States. She also later called on the prime minister when matters of politics and polls also came up during exchange of views. However, mixed feelings were aired from BNP, the fulcrum of the new greater opposition grouping, as party chief and ex-PM Khaleda Zia was sentenced to seven years in jail Monday and her five-year imprisonment doubled to ten years just Tuesday in twin graft cases. BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said at a press conference on the day that the High Court verdict "totally stunned" them as he said it is meant for keeping their chief off politics and polls. "How far this dialogue will be successful is a lurking question in public mind," he later said in reply to reporters about the possible outcome of the set discussion with the ruling side. AL office secretary Abdus Sobhan Golap Tuesday carried the invitation letter to Dr Kamal Hossain's Bailey Road residence around 7:45am, as the ball was set rolling at the fag-end of the tenures of the tenth parliament and the incumbent government. The parliament was prorogued on Monday night and kept in suspended animation as per current provisions of the constitution and an interim cabinet would be formed anytime soon for the election time. In the letter, the Prime Minister said, "Take Salam and greetings. Thank you for your letter dated October 28, 2018. My door is always open for discussion on all constitutional issues for the continuation of the democratic trend earned through immense struggles and sacrifices. So, I invite you (Oikyafront leaders) to Ganobhaban at 7pm on November 1 next as you sought time for talks." Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Monday night had phoned Oikya Front leader and Gano Forum general secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu seeking the list of the alliance leaders who will join the dialogue with the ruling party over the next election. Earlier in the day, Quader said their party President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed to sit in dialogue with the Front leaders over the next general election very soon, in reply to Sunday's JOF letter to the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the national united front in a meeting later Tuesday finalized their talking points on their demands and objectives and a delegation for the dialogue. A 16-member panel with Dr Kamal and BNP leader Fakhrul at the head will sit with the AL side for the crucial make-or-break dialogue. Front leader ASM Abdur Rab told reporters after the meeting, "All issues will be discussed-whether people will be able to vote, if votes can be preserved…" Obaidul Quader said, "Continuity of democratic dispensation is behind convening dialogue." Discussion will take place in a free and frank manner, he added. Other leaders in their talk stuck to the constitutional provisions in matter of the holding of the election-under the prime minister in government and without dissolution of parliament. The two main ones in the seven-point demands of the combined opposition are polls under a neutral 'election-time government' and dissolution of parliament, besides release of Khaleda Zia. Asked if any possibility of a Jamaat leader taking part in the dialogue with the prime minister, Jahangir Kabir Nanak said, "It seems to me that there's no confusion. Dr Kamal Hossain said that he would not be with Jamaat." AL presidium member Dr Md. Abdur Razzak firmly said that there was no option for dialogue with any political party other than the Jatiya Oikya Front. "There is no chance of any non-registered party to participate in the dialogue. We are not sitting with the BNP, but with Oikyafront, and expecting all the problems will be solved at the dialogue table," he said. As they mentioned their seven-point demands and 11 goals in the letter, so there is no denying of their demands, Nanak further said, adding: "The discussion will be held at the table." He added: "This newly formed cabinet will be the election-time government and the election will be held under the election commission, not under the government." There is a possibility that the size of newly formed government will be same as the present one, he said. "New faces may or may not be added." (Inputs taken from agencies, live media reports)

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