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Jatiya Party calls for all-party dialogue ahead of polls

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Jatiya Party Chairperson GM Quader has called for an “all-party dialogue to ensure a free and fair polling” in Bangladesh.

He came up with the call in a telephonic interview with the Hindu. 

In the interview, Quader created equidistance both from Prime Minister Hasina’s government as well as the BNP.

Quader said that it is very important for the government to come forward seeking a dialogue with all political parties. 

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“We want all sides should sit down and discuss a way out to ensure a free and fair election,” he said in the interview. 

Quader, however, did not approve of the demand from BNP for a caretaker government.

The Jatiya Party leader said that they have been insisting for a caretaker government but have not clarified what exactly should the caretaker formation look like. He appeared to support a third alternative — a compromise formula — that can address the hard positions.

He told the Hindu: “We have a formula in mind and we will place it on the table when an all-party dialogue takes place.”

Days after hosting a high-level delegation from the ruling Awami League, India has broadened engagement with the political spectrum of Dhaka and has invited a team from the Jatiya Party led by Chairperson GM Quader, reports the Hindu. 

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The arrival of the Jatiya Party’s team is significant as India plans to host Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the G-20 summit where Bangladesh has been invited as a “guest country”.

The visit adds to the ongoing exchanges involving multiple comments from the US and Indian interlocutors over the past fortnight.

Last week, two US Congressmen Rich McCormick and Ed Case visited Bangladesh and met with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen as well as representatives of the BNP and Jatiya Party. 

“Of the two congressmen, the senior one clearly told us that they want to see such an election which will be held in a neutral and democratic manner and the world will regard that as free and fair,” a Jatiya party leader told the media after the meeting.

Both Congressmen were hosted at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Delhi on August 17 where they attended a “closed-door discussion”. 

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A day prior, ORF held a meeting with Clifford Smith, Washington Project Director, Middle East Forum, USA, where he hinted at the difficulty that the US is facing in making up its mind regarding the evolving situation in Bangladesh. 

Smith presented a detailed account of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s activities in the Bangladesh diaspora in the US and said that at one point, the student wing of Jamaat was “the most violent in the world”.

Smith, however, pointed out that Hasina’s anti-terror outfit, RAB has not done enough to crack down on the religious fundamentalists. These remarks from the US were met with reiteration of the mainstream Indian position by Joint Secretary at Bangladesh and Myanmar Division of the Ministry of External Affairs Smita Pant. 

On August 15, she paid tribute to the memories of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and said: “Killers of Sheikh Mujib could not wipe out his ideas.”

On Saturday, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Pranay Verma paid his tribute to Sheikh Mujib and said India is a “steadfast partner” of Bangladesh.

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The ongoing exchanges are clearly broadening with the arrival of Jatiya Party in Delhi with some Dhaka sources indicating that similar “windows” are also open at other relevant quarters.

Apart from these, the government-to-government discussion will deepen as both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and PM Hasina will fly to Johannesburg for the BRICS summit where Bangladesh is among several economies that are seeking BRICS membership.

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Vast majority of Bangladeshis want good relations with neighbours: FM tells South Asia Correspondents

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Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud has said the vast majority of the people of Bangladesh now understand that it should have good relations with neighbours – for its own prosperity as well as that of the region.

He said his party (Bangladesh Awami League) is painted as a ‘pro-Indian’ party but AL is a pro-Bangladeshi party.

“There are anti-Indian elements. We specifically see this issue during elections. But the anti-Indian sentiment is gradually diminishing in Bangladesh,” he told the members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia during an interaction in New Delhi on February 9.

The Foreign Minister said the tablet or capsule of blaming Awami League as a pro-India party does not work anymore like the past.

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“Today, the vast majority of the people understand that for the prosperity of Bangladesh and the region, neighbours should have good relations,” he said while responding to a question.

Asked about balancing relations, the Foreign Minister said Bangladesh-India relationship is not comparable to any other relations.

“Bangladesh’s relations with India are bonded by blood and shared sacrifice during the War of Liberation in 1971,” Hasan said.

He said although China is not Bangladesh’s immediate neighbor but it is a neighbor and a development partner of Bangladesh.

The Foreign Minister said they face a lot of challenges due to the wave of fake news. He said this is a problem even in Europe and shared how fake news was spread during Covid-19.

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He mentioned that this is an area where all need to work together. “We can work together to fight against fake news.”

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Last national election was open for all AL members for sake of democracy: PM Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday (9 Februay) said if she did not allow her party members to take part in last month’s election as independent candidates the democracy of the country would have been snatched away.

“If the election was not open for all (AL members), then not only the election would have been stained, the democracy of the country would have been hijacked too,” she said.

The prime minister was delivering her introductory speech at the extended meeting of Awami League at her official residence Ganabhaban.

This election was important to maintain the country’s status as a developing country, she said.

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“We should not forget the election manifesto that we announced before the election to retain this achievement. Every year during the budget formulation we follow the election manifesto,” she said.

Hasina, also the chief of ruling Awami League, said that her party has also opened the upcoming upazila elections for all her party members to make it participatory.

“It will also be scrutinised how much work has been done for the common people in the last 15 years while in power, and who could not deliver. Through it we will see who is accepted by the people,” she said.

She issued warning against any sort of confrontation in the upcoming local government elections.

“We do not want any kind of confrontation. Stern actions will be taken against the individuals responsible for it no matter who they are,” she said.

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Claiming that the 12th parliamentary election was free, fair and impartial, Hasina said that those who want to dispute the election, they must give clear evidence.

She said that elections have been held in many developed countries of the world, but these are yet to be accepted by their opponents.

“Even the post-election violence has resulted in murders. But the election in Bangladesh was very fair. Public administration, the armed forces, law and order enforcement and all those involved in the election have performed their duties impartially,” she claimed

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Political crisis nearing climax: Rizvi

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The BNP today said the country’s long-standing political crisis is now nearing its climax as people are taking to the streets risking their lives to resist a one-sided election.

“The chief election commissioner surrendered to Sheikh Hasina instead of protecting the interests of the people and taking proper steps to ensure a free, fair, and participatory election,” Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of the party, said in a virtual press conference.

The BNP leader alleged that the EC announced the schedule for the next election ignoring the continuous movement for free and fair elections.

Rizvi also alleged that the commission announced the election schedule on the instruction of the government, ignoring the appeals of the country’s civil society, the international community, and foreign diplomats.

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“When the CEC announced the schedule, he should have also mentioned the time of voting, whether it will be at night, or during the daytime, or early morning.”

The BNP leader said the government has established a regime where those who demand free and fair elections are being attacked.

He said their ongoing movement to restore the power and rights of the people will be a warning for all the autocrats.

Rizvi said the BNP leaders and activists are being arrested indiscriminately. “If they [law enforcers] can’t detain them, they are arresting their fathers, fathers-in-law, younger brothers, and even women in the house.”

He said law enforcers arrested more than 12,900 leaders and activists in 289 cases across the country since October 28.

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