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Quader: Cannot go beyond constitution

  • Published at 02:51 am November 2nd, 2018
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader speaks to the press outside Ganabhaban yesterday after the end of dialogue between the ruling alliance and Jatiya Oikya FrontFocus Bangla
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader speaks to the press outside Ganabhaban on Thursday after the end of dialogue between the ruling alliance and Jatiya Oikya Front Focus Bangla

Forty-three politicians from the Awami League-led 14-party alliance and the Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Front sat together last night to discuss ensuring a peaceful atmosphere during the next parliamentary election

The ruling alliance has told the Jatiya Oikya Front, an alliance of major opposition political parties, that it is open to continue discussions to uphold the democratic environment, but strictly within the scope of the Constitution.

Forty-three politicians from the Awami League-led 14-party alliance and the Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Front sat together last night to discuss ensuring a peaceful atmosphere during the next parliamentary election. The dialogue started at 7pm at Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s official residence Ganabhaban, where 23 leaders from Awami League and 14-party alliance, led by Sheikh Hasina, and 20 leaders from Jatiya Oikya Front were present.

Emerging from Ganabhaban after the dialogue, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader spoke to the press, flanked by Joint General Secretaries General Mahbubul Alam Hanif and Jahangir Kabir Nanak.

The dialogue was very open, and the conversations were civil and polite, he remarked.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina listened to them with undivided attention, there were no interruptions,” Quader said, adding that the meeting began at 7pm and lasted till 10:30pm.

“Some of the senior leaders from our side also spoke.”

“They raised some complaints and we made some responses to that,” he said.

Quader said one point had been made clear during the dialogue, that the government was open to any discussion on matters that pertain to ensuring democratic continuity, within the confines of the Constitution.

“And this was also made clear in the letter sent by our leader in response to that of Dr Kamal’s,” he added.

“We cannot go beyond the constitution,” he said.

“No democratic country in the world dissolves parliament in order to hold elections. We have raised the example of our neighbouring country of India,” he said.

“The EC holds the responsibility for neutral elections.”

“As soon as the schedule is declared, law enforcement agencies and several other functions of the state will be brought under the Election Commission.”

“They have no reason to worry. Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina has guaranteed a free, fair and neutral election,” Quader added.

“The EC will operate freely and the government will not interfere in its duties. It will only provide support when sought for.”

The Awami League spokesperson said the ruling party had agreed to some of the demands raised by the delegation.

He said the prime minister had made it clear to the Oikya Front delegation that there are no restrictions on holding political rallies, but that she requested all concerned to hold rallies in a designated ground instead of blocking roads. 

‘Govt will look into political cases’

On deployment of foreign election observers, the prime minister said they do not have any objection, and the government will support this, Quader said.

“Electronic voting machines are a modern thing, which we support. The prime minister said the EC wants to use EVM in a limited scale and the Awami League supports it,” he said.

“They raised allegations of their leaders facing politically motivated cases,” he said.

“On this matter, the prime minister asked Mirza Fakhrul and Dr Kamal to make a list of the cases they feel are politically motivated and give it to me so that she can look into them.”

About the cases against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, Quader, quoting the prime minister, said this is a legal matter and not an issue of dialogue.

The prime minister also conveyed that these cases were filed during the caretaker government regime, and not during her tenure.

“She reminded them that she did not file those cases or frame those cases. The caretaker government, which was headed by BNP’s own people, filed the cases. There were 16 cases against her as well and she had them all investigated and not a single one was withdrawn.”

Regarding a demand from the Oikya Front about giving Armed Forces magistracy power during the polls, the prime minister said such authority was given only once in Bangladesh’s history, during the 2001 national election.

Overall, good progress was made in the talks, the minister said.

“Whether they are happy or unhappy, only they can tell.

“Dr Kamal has thanked the prime minister and expressed his gratitude.”

More talks if necessary

Prime Minister Hasina has told the delegation that her doors will remain open in future for talks on a smaller scale, Quader said.

“We have dialogues scheduled till November 8, after that, they can come any time. If they inform us we will invite them on behalf of our leader,” he said.

“I believe most of them have been convinced by the arguments the prime minister placed in front of them,” he added. l