The Awami League has responded to the US letter calling for talks between political parties before the general election in Bangladesh, saying there is “not enough time” for such a dialogue to take place.
Amid blockades by the BNP for the government’s resignation, the conditions also “do not exist” for talks, the ruling party told the US.
Mohammad Ali Arafat, a member of the Awami League’s central committee, delivered the letter from General Secretary Obaidul Quader addressing Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs at the US Department of State, on Friday.
Arafat said he handed the letter to Arturo Hines, deputy counsellor for political and economic affairs at the US Embassy in Dhaka.
Lu sent letters to the Awami League, the BNP and the Jatiya Party on Nov 13, calling for talks amid a standoff over who will govern the country during the upcoming election.
The BNP says it will not contest any elections under the Awami League government while the ruling party has refused to resign, arguing that the installation of an unelected caretaker government will be a violation of the constitution.
In the letter to Lu, Quader said the Awami League appreciates the help and assistance being offered by the US and others to make the national parliamentary election free, fair and violence-free.
He reiterated the party's “commitment to holding free and fair elections at all levels for upholding the country's democratic process”.
Quader said under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the government has undertaken several structural, financial, human-resources, legal and other reforms to make the Election Commission a “truly independent” organisation.
He said the Awami League had, for many months, kept the door open for unconditional dialogue with other political parties.
“However, such a dialogue could not be realised as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was, and remains, adamant on the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Government as a prerequisite for holding any such dialogue.
“Currently BNP and their like-minded allies like Jamaat-e-Islami are observing coercive continuous political programmes like blockades to demand the resignation of the government, among others, and using arson attacks as the means of enforcing such blockades,” Quader said.
Citing the Department of Fire Service and Civil Defence, he said blockade supporters carriued out a total of 154 arson attacks between Oct 28 and Nov 13.
“Thus, even if AL were on board to sit with the BNP and others, amidst the ongoing blockades and the principal demand of such programmes, the conditions simply do not exist for holding any meaningful dialogue.”
Mentioning that the commission has set Jan 7 for the voting day and the deadline for nomination submission is Nov 30, Quader said political parties will have to devote all their time to finalising their electoral tasks, including reviewing and finalising the nominees of 300 constituencies, preparing their manifestos, finalising campaign strategies and campaign to the voters in the coming weeks.
“This means that even if all the conditions were favourable for a dialogue, there simply is not enough time for holding any meaningful dialogue with tangible outcomes,” the Awami League leader said.