In a major breakthrough in Bangladesh’s political scenes, the Awami League has agreed to sit for talks with the recently formed Jatiya Oikya Front led by Dr Kamal Hossain despite dismissing several recent such requests from the BNP.
There will be no conditions attached to the talks, the ruling partys General Secretary Obaidul Quader said at a news conference in Dhaka on Monday.
The Awami League wants to prove that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinas door is open to all for talks, he said.
"We did not give in to anyones pressure,” Quader pointed out.
“We did not invite anyone to the dialogue. Oikya Front leaders desired dialogue. The doors to talks are open to all. We agree to the Oikya Fronts proposal. "
Highlighting his party chiefs “keenness on participatory elections”, Quader said: “Sheikh Hasina has not shut the door to talks to anyone, nor does it remain shut.”
Quader did not announce any date for the potential talks.
He later called Oikya Front leader Mostafa Mohsin Montu and invited them to a Ganabhaban dinner for the talks.
Montu said the talks could be held on Wednesday.
The Front leaders sat at senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmeds chamber to discuss the development.
Moudud told the media that they welcomed Hasinas decision.
The BNP that boycotted the tenth parliamentary election, has been calling for talks since the 2014 polls. But the Awami League had said it saw no need for the discussion.
Awami League leaders have repeatedly spoken of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia rejecting a phone call from Sheikh Hasina before that election.
The Awami Leagues objections have intensified since Khaleda was jailed over corruption and her son Tarique Rahman was sentenced over the 2004 grenade attacks on Hasina, claiming the party will not sit for talks with killers.
The BNP then joined an alliance known as the Jatiya Oikya Front led by Dr Kamal on Oct 13. They then raised a seven-point list of demand.
The demands include the release of Khaleda, the dissolution of parliament ahead of the election and the formation of an impartial election-time government, which Awami League leaders have said are not possible under the current constitution.
Front leaders sent a letter requesting talks to Awami League president and the general secretary on Sunday.
Hasina then discussed the matter after the cabinet meeting on Monday, said Quader.
“Our leader spoke with us after the cabinet meeting,” he said. “She spoke to the gathered party leaders and asked for their opinions. It was unanimously decided at the meeting that the Awami League presidents door is not closed to anyone.”
“We agree with our leader Sheikh Hasina that we will sit with Oikya Front leaders for talks,” he said.
Hasina will lead the party team to the dialogue. “We will announce the time, place and other related details very soon."
In response to a question, the Awami League general secretary said: "The dialogue will be held before the announcement of the election schedule.”
Asked whether the alliances seven demands will be accepted, he said, “Its not possible to say at this moment. Wait for the outcome of the discussion.”
At the beginning of the news conference at the Dhanmondi office of the Awami League president, Quader said, "I will announce a pleasant surprise for the entire nation on behalf of Sheikh Hasina, which will bring relief to the countrys political atmosphere.”
In his letter to Hasina, Dr Kamal, a former leader of the Awami League, wrote: "In order to take part in a participatory election in a peaceful and cordial atmosphere, the Jatiya Oikya Front feels the need for a meaningful dialogue with Bangladesh Awami League and we are expecting an effective initiative.”
Dr Kamal started the letter by honouring Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the Father of the Nation. At the end, Kamal wished Hasina good health and longevity.
Without blaming anyone specifically for the current political crisis, Kamal wrote: "It is not unknown to us that negative, ailing politics has divided our nation and pushed us into a major crisis.”