Civil society members yesterday called for a national dialogue to end the ongoing political crisis, pledging to work towards a permanent fix for the unhealthy cycle of political violence centring elections, report agencies.
“We will meet the president soon to press for a dialogue,” former chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda, told this correspondent after attending a round-table discussion “National Dialogue in National Crisis” under the banner of Jatiya Oikya Process.
From a list of 25, four to five civil society members would be selected by today to meet the president, said Huda, who chaired the session at the Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh in the capital.
Huda, Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain and Nagorik Oikko Convenor Mahmudur Rahman Manna and several others are leading the initiative for a dialogue between all political parties.
Speaking at yesterday’s discussion, Reza Kibria, professor of economics at Dhaka University said the blockade is causing a loss of $100-150 million every day, and it wouldn’t be possible to recoup the loss even in the next two years.
Moreover, people are losing confidence in politicians, he said.
Terming the situation dangerous, the speakers said it may destroy all the achievements the country has made so far in economic and social spheres.
Huda said dialogue is essential and must start at the earliest possible time as both the ruling Awami League and the BNP-led alliance are taking hard lines.
“It should be a national dialogue,” said Huda.
He observed that the national unity forged during the 1971 Liberation War has to be achieved for greater good of the nation, setting aside partisan interests.
Eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain said the dialogue would unite all who aspire to see normalcy rather than violence.
Everyone wants peace, not conflicts or politics of confrontation. “We will continue to work on it actively,” he said.
Prof Dr Anwar Hossain of history department at DU said a dialogue between the government and the BNP was quite unlikely. However, selected committees from the civil society could meet both the parties.
If the parties don’t agree, the committee members could seek from them three names each for an “indirect dialogue” on reforms of the Election Commission as well as on election-time government, he said.
In a written speech, Nagorik Oikko Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the dialogue could be held in participation of all political parties and representatives of different professional bodies.
He emphasised the need for a permanent solution to the crisis, and said there must be discussions to find ways to strengthen the constitutional bodies and ensure that those function independently.
Legal experts and academics suggested bringing reforms to the Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Service Commission.
The country’s regulatory framework collapsed which in result created the cycle of violence, they said.
Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of Sushashoner Janney Nagorik, said the dialogue must focus on election-time government and electoral laws.
Asked, BNP Standing Committee member Lt Gen (rtd) Mahbubur Rahman said he would welcome such an initiative from the civil society members.
Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, however, said there was no question of having a dialogue unless the BNP admitted that it was instigating violence across the country.
Former advisers to caretaker governments Akbar Ali Khan, M Hafizuddin Khan, CM Shafi Sami and Rasheda K Chowdhury, advocate Shahdeen Malik, journalist Abu Sayeed Khan, former IGP Nurul Huda, DU teacher Robaet Ferdaus, economist Dr Salehuddin Ahmed and Communist Party of Bangladesh President Mujahidul Islam Selim spoke.
The BNP-led alliance enforced a non-stop nationwide blockade since January 6 demanding the government steps down paving the way for an early election.
Since then, at least 65 people have been killed, while businesses continue to suffer heavy losses.