The opposition parties are waiting for BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s signal to launch the process of forming a broad political coalition to ‘restore democracy’ in the country.
Without the guidance of the party chief, senior BNP leaders are unable to make a decision regarding what foundation and strategy the proposed coalition will be built on.
The matter was disclosed by several BNP standing committee members, and leaders from at least ten other political parties that are interested in forming a coalition of national unity.
Stating that the 14-party alliance led by the Awami League is desperate to hold onto power, these politicians believe that the only way to counter this desperate move is to form a national unity platform.
The opposition party leaders view the ruling party as autocratic, and they see no alternative to forming an alliance that will unite all other political parties.
Talks continue to form national unity platform
According to a number of members from the BNP standing committee, discussion over forming an alliance is being held with at least 16 political parties for more than 18 months.
Some of these parties are Bikalpa Dhara, Gono Forum, Nagorik Oikya and JSD.
The BNP is also holding discussions with three leftist-democratic parties, three religion-based parties, five smaller parties that have registration.
Responding to a query, Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain said: “The discussion has started. We have decided on some points, which will serve as the basis of the coalition.
“The first point is ensuring a fair election, and other points such as governance based on accountability and freedom of the judiciary will be included after the member parties consent.”
On the other hand, sources from the BNP revealed that BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir tried to visit party Chairperson Khaleda Zia in jail on March 29, to discuss matters related to the formation of the coalition.
However, he is yet to get an audience with Khaleda Zia due to her health issues.
The correspondent has learned that the BNP is unable to make a decision regarding the proposed alliance of opposition parties. The party is being run from three leadership wings.
The wings are- currently incarcerated Chairperson Khaleda Zia, acting Chairman Tarique Rahman and the standing committee led by Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul.
The current BNP leadership structure makes any decision-making process a complicated one.
Speaking to the correspondent, BNP standing committee member Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said: “The primary objective of our ongoing movement is to free our chief from incarceration as soon as possible.
“To achieve this goal, we are mounting a strong legal defence and have taken to the streets with political demonstrations. Our participation in the next general polls and formation of an alliance depends of her release.”
Another member of the BNP standing committee Barrister Jamir Uddin stated: “We will form a platform of national unity, and everyone will be united under one banner. That is our goal.”
A standing committee member, on condition of anonymity added: “If BNP makes a coalition with other opposition parties, it would have to give up seats in the parliament. We must know Khaleda Zia’s opinion about it.
“However, if the bail process gets delayed, the BNP standing committee will make a decision after discussing the matter with the acting chairman. The matter will require some time.”
‘For the sake of election and democracy’
Chairman of BJP, which is a member of the BNP-led 20-party alliance, Andaleeve Rahman Partho said: “Our first priority is to secure the release of Khaleda Zia. Then we will work on the remaining issues.
“Khaleda Zia and Tareque Rahman have spoken about a national unity. The unity is already shaping up, only the formalities remain.”
Several leaders from opposition parties have told the correspondent that any discussion outlining the organizational structure of the proposed grand alliance is yet to be held.
Following Khaleda’s imprisonment in a graft case, these parties have started thinking anew about forming a grand alliance for the sake of next general polls and democracy.
Leaders belonging to political parties that are interested in a coalition with the BNP stated that the BNP must make its stance on issues clear first.
“If the BNP can take a firm stance on ensuring democracy, freedom of judiciary, political cooperation, consensus in seat distribution in parliament, strengthening the Election Commission and ensuring at least partial freedom of state-owned organizations, we will stand with them,” added the leaders.
Nagarik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna told the correspondent: “We need a democratic national unity to counter the rising threat of autocracy.”
Another leader from an opposition party said: “Democracy cannot be restored overnight. The release of Khaleda Zia or their [the BNP] climb to power alone will not ensure democracy.”
Meanwhile, a Jukta Front leader said: “We wanted to form a third party political power. However, we became quite sure in the past two months that this autocratic government is trying to hold onto power at any cost.”
Addressing the issue, Dr Kamal Hossain stated: “We cannot make an early announcement confirming that we will form an alliance with the BNP. Things change all the time.
“However, we can make an alliance based on the proposals Gono Forum had put forth.”
When asked about the apparent delay, Andaleeve Rahman said: “Forming a coalition is an ongoing process, and we are talking to a lot people about it. We have to consider the security of the interested parties.
“The whole of Bangladesh has taken a stance against the government.”
‘Future will reveal fate of the alliance’
A number of BNP leaders concerned have confirmed that the formation of a grand alliance depends on the consent of Khaleda Zia and her instructions to her party leaders and activists.
Senior BNP leader Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said: “Parties that support a fair and inclusive election are currently engaged in a peaceful movement. The future will reveal what kind of alliance we will form.”
Discussions about a national unity began following the terror attack in Gulshan of Dhaka on July 1, 2016. Khaleda Zia called for national unity on July 3 the same year.
However, there was an issue regarding whether Jamaat-e-Islami will be included in the coalition or not.
Commenting on the matter, Jamaat-E-Islami Central Working Committee member Advocate Ehsanul Mahbub Jubayer said: “Jamaat will not disrupt the process to form a national unity, for ensuring a free, fair and inclusive general election.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com