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Dhaka Tribune

BNP seeks diplomatic help to restore caretaker govt

BNP has been meeting with diplomats with a view to gaining support for their demand for the restoration of the caretaker government. But to what extent this lobbying strategy is likely to pay dividends remains an open question

Update : 04 Apr 2023, 10:09 AM

The entrenched positions of the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP on the issue of an election-time government is creating a tense situation in the political arena, even as the Election Commission is taking preparations for early polls.

Meanwhile, civil society representatives, local pressure groups and some foreign diplomats have been suggesting a non-party caretaker administration, as demanded by the BNP and like-minded parties which insist that polls under the incumbent government will not be fair.

Under the rules, the 12th parliamentary election is to be held before January. Yesterday the EC announced that the election would be held through a use of ballot papers, instead of electronic voting machines (EVMs) as planned previously. 

The BNP had long been opposing the use of EVMs in the polls and also refrained from taking part in the process of forming the current EC body. Recently, the BNP also turned down the EC's invitation to an informal dialogue.

To press home its key demand for a non-partisan caretaker government, a provision which was declared illegal by the High Court, the BNP has been staging street movements as well as conducting talks with various political parties and foreign diplomats stationed in Bangladesh. 

Many BNP leaders believe that diplomatic efforts will help them in ensuring a restoration of the system. 

In addition to holding such a view, the party has started a second round of talks with like-minded political parties who are part of the simultaneous movement.

In the last few meetings, the BNP leaders highlighted the party's key demand of a restoration of the caretaker government.

However, questions still remain whether it is really possible to establish a neutral government through discussions with diplomats, and the nature and size of the interim administration. 

The BNP has not provided any guideline or outline of the administration it expects before the election. 

The BNP's top brass say they have discussed their issues of concern, mainly the election environment and the caretaker government system. They believe that through such discussions, some kind of pressure can be created on the government.

It should be mentioned that the diplomats of countries under the QUAD coalition in Bangladesh had prepared election guidelines for the government, following discussions among themselves, as the country was heading towards a political stalemate back in 2005. 

Series of meetings

On March 30, BNP Standing Committee members and senior leaders organized an iftar party in Dhaka with foreign ambassadors and other diplomats. 

After the divisional mass gatherings that ended in December, BNP Standing Committee Member Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan met with the British High Commissioner, the Ambassador of Spain, the Assistant Ambassador of Sweden and diplomats of Japan and Switzerland. 

At the same time, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, head of the BNP's international relations committee and member of the Standing Committee, met with the UK envoy.

Several top leaders, including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, had a courtesy meeting with the new Indian High Commissioner on invitation. Fakhrul last year attended a ceremony at the Chinese embassy in Dhaka. 

Sources said the BNP's meetings with diplomats would continue while diplomats of many important countries were also maintaining contact with them to know its position on the election. 

Amir Khasru said that democratic countries of the world  were talking to the BNP about the state of democracy in Bangladesh. 

“Efforts are being made to suppress the BNP in many ways. So, we are following our path. We have been protesting on the streets for the past few months. Today the movement has reached a stage,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

According to sources in the diplomatic wing of the BNP, in these meetings, the party is presenting its position of not going to the next election without a non-partisan government and that such a government is important for a fair election. 

The BNP leaders have shared their experience in the last two elections, conducted under the incumbent government, and how the electoral system had been “destroyed”. Contacted by Dhaka Tribune, Mirza Fakhrul said: “Election is a very important issue for everyone in the country and abroad. Everyone is concerned about fair elections. The democratic states want an elected government and an elected parliament through fair elections.”

Meanwhile, BNP leaders have said they will finalize the demands of the simultaneous movement within this month on the basis of an agreement with the alliances and parties with a view to unseating the government.

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