Oikya Front not holding out hope over talks with AL

Salman Tareque Sakil
Published : 01:10, Oct 31, 2018 | Updated : 16:13, Oct 31, 2018

The Jatiya Oikya Front is not holding out much hope of an outcome from its talks with the ruling Awami League scheduled for Thursday.
The Kamal Hossain-led alliance’s key member the BNP has already expressed doubts over any positive conclusion on the backdrop of High Court’s decision doubling party chief Khaleda Zia’s jail term.
Political observers say that the call for talks and extending Khaleda’s jail term are not a coincidence, but a strategy which will create tension among the BNP and its partners in the new coalition.
According to them, the BNP will stress on party chief’s release, which is one of the seven demands of the Oikya Front. It’s only natural that the party will mount pressure on its allies to keep the matter as the key agenda during the talks at the Ganabhaban.
They also believe that cracks might open in the BNP as a faction in the party has always advocated for not taking part in the elections with Khaleda in jail.
On Tuesday, Oikya Front leadership and representatives from allies had a meeting at its leader Kamal Hossain’s offices in Motijheel, where the matter of Khaleda was discussed.
According to people familiar with the meeting, Oikya Front leaders were apprehensive over BNP leaders after its Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul’s ‘doubt over dialogue’s outcome’ remarks.
However, the BNP representatives were ‘quite calm’, they said.
Oikya Front leaders, who attended the Motijheel meeting, said it was clear to them that there was a separate motive behind extending Khaleda’s jail term.
“We believe the (High Court) verdict of Khaleda is motivated,” Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) General Secretary Abdul Malek Ratan told Bangla Tribune.
Pro-BNP professionals’ leader Zafrullah Chowdhury described the lawsuits against Khaleda and the verdicts as ‘political’.
“We will confront it politically. Our negotiations will include this matter,” he told Bangla Tribune.
Pro-BNP intellectual Professor Emazuddin Ahmed, however, said that the law suits against Khaleda aim to shut her out of the general election.
According to him, the call for talks and raising Khaleda’s jail term does not go together, if the objective was breaking the impasse.
“The BNP is yet to decide whether it will take part in the polls without Khaleda Zia, which will create a rift in the party,” he told Bangla Tribune.
Emazuddin says it was clear that the government wants a ‘one-party system’. “Khaleda Zia is a very popular leader; it will be not easy to hold an election without her.”
Oikya Front leaders, however, say that the issue of Khaleda will be one of the key points of negotiations during the talks at the Ganabhaban.
Dr Kamal Hossain, who will lead the Oikya Front delegation, has been given the responsibility to raise the issue while JSD chief ASM Abdur Rab, BNP’s Mirza Fakhrul, Moudud Ahmed, Jamiruddin Sircar will help him with, according to people familiar about Tuesday’s Oikya Front meeting.
They said that other leaders have been asked not to raise the issue during the talks.
The BNP, however, says it sees almost no possibility of a negotiation between the Awami League and the new coalition.
Still, if an outcome is reached it would be historic, said two members of its policymaking National Standing Committee, who asked not to be named.
According to them, the prime minister has invited for talks as part of a political courtesy as the coalition has called for it.
Highly placed sources in the BNP said that Khaleda’s release in parole might be pitched in talks. According to them, the party’s lawyers’ front is already weighing the legal avenues for it.
A senior BNP leader said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will respond by saying that it’s judicial issue and send the ball to the court of BNP lawyers.
In that case, Kamal Hossain will give an overview of the judiciary’s current state focusing on the departure of the former chief justice, said the member of the BNP’s policymaking forum, asking not to be named.
Oikya Front leaders said that they will hold meetings on Wednesday and Thursday before the talks.
“The dialogue has been arranged over the Oikya Front’s seven demands. The BNP wants that the talks will centre on those issues,” BNP Standing Committee member Jamiruddin Sircar told Bangla Tribune.