The leaders of top three political parties in Bangladesh did not attempt to meet with Pope Francis during his visit to Bangladesh. Neither Khaleda Zia, nor HM Ershad, or Raushan Ershad made any overtures to sit down with the pontiff over his three-day visit to Bangladesh.
The Bangla Tribune reached out to the three parties to learn why. Party spokespersons said the pope’s visit was not political in nature, but rather humanitarian. A confidant to the BNP chairperson said the pope’s itinerary did not include any political meetings.
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, a top BNP leader, said: “The pope is a religious leader, he is not here for any political purposes. He came at the government’s behest. Even as a state leader, he does not have any roles in elections or politics. Moreover, Khaleda Zia is not the leader of the opposition in the Parliament. There is no cause for her to meet with the pope.”
Another BNP leader posed the question: “When the grand imams of the mosques of Mecca and Medina came to visit, did BNP attempt to meet them as a political entity? No. Then why is this being discussed when the leader of the Christian community came to visit?”
The BNP chairperson’s foreign policy advisor Sabih Uddin Ahmed and media officer Shairul Kabir claimed they knew nothing regarding the issue.
This marks the first instance of BNP not attempting to meet with any foreign heads of state during their visit to Bangladesh.
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader, also the roads bridges and transport minister, also refused to comment on the topic.
Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad said he had nothing to say regarding the matter and cut the call abruptly.
Jatiya Party MP Fakhrul Imam, who is a confidant to opposition leader Raushan Ershad, said the pope’s visit had slipped under their radar.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune