With the parliamentary election right around the corner, politicians from the Awami League and BNP are trying to drum up support among the diplomatic quarters in Dhaka.
For their part, the diplomats are trying to gauge how participatory the election will be and whether international observers will be allowed to monitor the vote.
In one of the more higher-level meetings, senior Awami League leaders led by general secretary Obaidul Quader met on Monday with the US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat at her residence in Dhaka
Sources who were present told the Dhaka Tribune the meeting was a “courtesy call” to the ambassador, but that the upcoming
general elections had been discussed.
“We spoke about our plans for the next general elections with the US ambassador,” a senior ruling party leader said on condition of anonymity.
According to the source, Bernicat asked the Awami League delegates about their plans on holding a “free and fair election”, and on the likely involvement of the main opposition BNP.
She is also reported to have inquired about the trial of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, who is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
Also present at the April 30 meeting were Awami League Advisory Council member and former ambassador Mohammad Jamir, presidium members Abdur Razzak and Faruk Khan, and senior officials from the US embassy.
Ambassador Bernicat also used the opportunity to discuss the upcoming Gazipur city corporation elections, saying she was “fully satisfied about the electoral setup” having visited the city and spoken to the candidates.
Separately, on April 22-24 a 20-member Awami League delegation lead by General Secretary Obaidul Quader visited India at the invitation of BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav.
Although the visit was officially labelled a “party-to-party level” meeting, Obaidul revealed during a post-trip press briefing that Ram Madhav had accepted an invitation to visit Bangladesh before the elections in order to observe firsthand the political climate.
Insiders from Awami League’s president political office in Dhanmondi told the Dhaka Tribune that a delegation of Awami League also met with officials from the Chinese embassy in April, where they were surprised to find that officials from the Pakistan Embassy were also present.
Awami League leaders refused to discuss the details of that meeting, the date or names of the delegates.
However, the Dhaka Tribune has learned that the meeting did discuss the upcoming election, BNP’s participation, and the possibility of Khaleda Zia’s being freed in time to participate.
For its part, the BNP held a large meeting on March 21 regarding the elections with diplomats of several countries including Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,Turkey and the United States, plus the European Union.
The BNP delegation was led by the party’s secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. BNP leaders apprised the diplomats of the party’s observations about the Supreme Court verdict that stayed the bail for Khaleda, the government’s attitude towards Khaleda and her party, and their plans for the upcoming elections.
This was the the second meeting between BNP leaders and diplomats since Khaleda was sent to jail in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on February 8.
After Khaleda was imprisoned, senior BNP leaders held a meeting at the same venue on March 13 with the diplomats of around 15 countries .