Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (C) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2018
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Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response

  • The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
  • The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands.

DHAKA: Thursday’s dialogue between the ruling alliance of 14 parties led by the Awami League and the Oikya Front, the new opposition alliance, received a mixed reception in Bangladesh’s political circles. The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is a key player in the front, said, “We are not satisfied with how the talks went.” However, his close ally, the front leader and Gonoforum President, Dr. Kamal Hossain, said, “We have placed our demands and the Prime Minister will inform us about her final decision later.”
Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of ruling Awami League and the second in command of the party, quoted the Prime Minister, saying, “The door is open and we can sit again later.”
The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands, which included: The formation of non-partisan election period government, the resignation of the incumbent government and dissolution of the parliament; the release of political prisoners, including BNP chairwoman Khaleda Zia, and the withdrawal of false cases filed against political activists; the reformation of the Election Commission and the abandonment of the Electronic Voting Machine for this election, ensuring a level playing field for all political parties; and the deployment of army during the election, to allow the foreign and domestic observers to witness the election process.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina immediately agreed on the two points regarding ensuring the level playing field for all political parties and the presence of foreign election observers.
S.M. Rejaul Karim, Legal Affairs Secretary of the ruling Awami League, said to Arab News, “We had the discussion in a very congenial and cordial environment. The Prime Minister has accepted the issue of a ensuring level playing field and the presence of international election observers during the election, and I think it was a fruitful discussion.”
During the meeting Prime Minister assured the opposition that her government will facilitate the election commission in every way to hold a free, fair and inclusive election, said Karim.
“After the meeting I strongly believe that the opposition will get much more confidence and take part in the upcoming election. As a result the country will experience an election with festivity in a democratic environment,” opined Karim.
However the opposition alliance leader Dr. Kamal said, “The prime minister gave a long speech. But we didn’t find any specific solution there, except for some positive comments about holding rallies and meetings.”
BNP secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam said his party will continue the street protests to achieve their demands.
Islam and his party were disappointed that the PM rejected their demand for the release of Khaleda Zia. She had said that the government could do nothing since it’s a legal matter. Hasina also said that her government did not file the cases against Zia.
Dr. Ataur Rahman, a renowned political scientist and teacher of Dhaka University, said to Arab News, “Although it is not completely satisfying the dialogue has opened the door for the opposition parties and they have got assurances that some of the demands will be fulfilled. Now the opposition should wait and watch the situation.”
He analyzed it as a “wheeling and dealing” situation where both the parties will try to win the maximum gain. “I think in the coming days there will be few more surprises in the political arena till the submission of nomination papers for the election race,” added Rahman.
Kashem Humayun, a veteran journalist and managing editor of Bangla Daily Sangbad, says to Arab News, “Government can’t do anything contrary to the constitution and the situation in this term is quite different from the last election held in 2014. I believe that the main opposition BNP will take part in the election.”
He added: “If any change is required in the constitution that should be done in parliament, and for that reason also BNP should join the election race.”


Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

Updated 16 July 2019
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Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan opened its airspace to civil aviation on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with neighboring India.
“With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a so-called Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) published on the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s website.
The move by Pakistan, which lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor, offers a welcome break for international airlines after the airspace restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
India’s ministry of civil aviation said that after the lifting of the NOTAMS, there were no further restrictions on airspace in either country.
“Flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” it said.
Pakistan closed its airspace in February after an attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to an armed standoff between the two nuclear-armed powers.
Both countries carried out aerial attacks over the other’s territory and warplanes fought a brief dogfight over the skies of the disputed Kashmir region during which an Indian fighter jet was shot down.
Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed once the immediate crisis passed but restrictions continued to affect many international carriers using Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan’s announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until Oct. 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace.