Press Trust of India
Dhaka, 26 October
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today reached out to arch-rival Khaleda Zia for talks to resolve a standoff on holding the next general election, even as Bangladesh braced for a shutdown called by the main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
“They (Hasina and Zia) are now set for talks later in the evening,” a spokesman for the premier’s office told reporters, hours after Ms Hasina telephoned the BNP chief but failed to speak to her.
“The Prime Minister called the opposition leader at her official phone at 1.15 p.m. (local time) but nobody picked it for half an hour,” Abul Kalam Azad, Press secretary to the Premier, told reporters here.
BNP’s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters that Zia’s official phone “is out of order for a long time” and all her lines “remain out of order most of the times”.
Ms Hasina made the efforts to contact her arch-rival a day after BNP supporters staged violent protests across Bangladesh to push the party’s demand for setting up an interim government comprising non-political individuals. Six persons were killed and over 300 injured in clashes between BNP workers and security forces.
Ms Zia has threatened to launch a 60-hour nationwide shutdown from tomorrow if her demands are not met. Ms Hasina has proposed the formation of a caretaker government with representatives of all political parties, but this was rejected by Ms Zia.
The violence continued today as suspected Opposition activists blasted seven crude bombs in front of the houses of a Supreme Court judge, the environment minister and a police office. A bus and a private car was set ablaze.
No one was injured in the explosions but they sparked fears of violence ahead of the possible shutdown. Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops guarded the streets in the capital where most residents preferred to stay indoors and the streets looked deserted.
Awami League scrapped a non-party caretaker government system headed by the immediate past chief justice for election oversight by amending the constitution with its three-fourths majority in parliament two years ago in line with a Supreme Court judgment that said the arrangement was contrary to the constitution.
The Opposition then staged violent street protests leaving scores of people dead in recent months, saying elections under Ms Hasina would not be fair and credible.