PM assures Oikya Front of neutral polls

Dhaka, Nov 1 – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday assured the Oikyafront leaders that the next national election will be held in a free, fair and neutral manner saying that her door will remain open for further ‘small-group’ discussions. She also said the Election Commission is tasked to hold the election neutrally and the government will support it to that end after the election schedule is announced.
“There’s no reason for fear and apprehension,” Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
Briefing reporters after a marathon dialogue at Ganobhaban, he said they had a good and open discussion. “There was a conducive environment and the dialogue will continue.”
Quader said there will be no restrictions on holding rallies, but the Prime Minister requested all concerned to hold rallies in a designated ground instead of blocking roads. A corner of Suhrawardy Udyan will be set aside for this purpose.
Both sides discussed Oikyafront’s seven-point demand that includes installation of a neutral interim government, dissolution of parliament, reconstitution the Election Commission, the release of all the political prisoners, deployment of army and cancellation of the move to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS) for holding the next polls in fair and acceptable manner.
“Our leader (PM) listened to them with undivided attention and didn’t lose her patience. She didn’t stop anybody while speaking,” Quader said adding that the meeting began at 7 pm and lasted for 10:30 pm.
He also said the AL side conveyed that they cannot go beyond the Constitution as part of democratic practice. “We also agreed on some points.”
On deployment of foreign election observers, the Prime Minister said they do not have any objection, Quader said.
About EVM use, the Prime Minister said the EC wants to use EVM on a limited scale and the AL supports it.
On cases, Quader said the Prime Minister informed that she will look into that if the list of political cases is sent to her. “We can’t go beyond the Constitution,” he said quoting the Prime Minister.
About the cases against BNP chief Khaleda Zia, Quader, quoting the Prime Minister, said this is a legal matter but not an issue of dialogue.
The Prime Minister also conveyed that these cases were filed during the caretaker government, not during her tenure.
Regarding Army’s magistracy power during polls, the Prime Minister said such authority was given only in the 2001 national election in Bangladesh’s history.
“My door will remain open for further small-scale talks,” Quader further quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
Earlier, Prime Minister welcomed the Oikyafront delegation to Bangabhaban. “I welcome you to the Ganobhaban.”
The dialogue between the ruling and opposition alliances began in a bid to reach a consensus over holding the next general election in a fair and credible manner with the participation of all parties.
Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led a 23-member 14-party delegation while Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain led a 20-member Jatiya Oikyafront team at the talks. – UNB