Bangladesh’s main opposition party BNP has returned to the Parliament after an 83-day abstention,ending a protracted boycott demanding restoration of the scrapped caretaker government system for overseeing elections.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP),led by chairperson Khaleda Zia,returned to the House yesterday and staged a dramatic walkout soon after. They returned to the Parliament again today but surprisingly preferred not to initiate talks on restoring the caretaker government system,their primary demand.
“Yes,we are joining the session in the afternoon certainly we will return,” senior BNP lawmaker and former law minister Maudud Ahmed told PTI. But he added that for “technical reasons” the opposition has decided not to place any proposal for restoring the scrapped caretaker government system for overseeing elections despite their prolonged and massive campaign over the issue.
“We want the ruling (Awami League) party to initiate the discussion on the caretaker government…otherwise government could refer the matter to court barring discussions on the issue in parliament as a ‘sub-judice’ matter,” Ahmed said. His comments came as the BNP,its allies fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Jatiya Party joined the Parliament after 83 days of abstention.
The opposition joined the Parliament as due to a constitutional obligation they would have lost their seats after 90 consecutive days of abstention,the BD News reported. The BNP has boycotted the House for 316 days out of 370 days of sittings in the current Parliament,setting a dubious record of boycott in Bangladesh’s parliamentary history.
A BNP lawmaker,however,earlier submitted a notice for talks over the caretaker issue which BNP termed as a “personal move” and later also asked him to withdraw the proposal. The party had for long been demanding the restoration of the caretaker system for which they had enforced a series of violent shut downs which claimed many lives.
Senior Awami League lawmaker Tofail Ahmed blasted the BNP decision saying the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) at a meeting decided that discussions could be held in the Parliament on the caretaker government issue if the BNP submitted a notice. Speaker Shirin Sharmin Choudhury at the meeting confirmed that she received a notice on the matter from a BNP MP.
The opposition earlier said it was expected to join the Parliament session as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina repeatedly proposed dialogue with BNP to resolve differences over the electoral system. The ruling party with its three fourths majority in the House scrapped the non-party caretaker government system introduced in 1996 saying the system proved counter productive particularly after the installation of an army-backed interim government.
The Army intervened to install the 2006-2008 military- backed interim government under emergency rules as rivalry between the then ruling BNP and opposition Awami League worsened ahead of scheduled elections.
It sent to jail incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her archrival Khaleda Zia of the BNP. The regime however staged the widely acclaimed landmark December 2008 elections installing Awami League to power with a huge majority.
The United Nations recently called Hasina’s dialogue offer to be a good “starting point” to resolve the impasse but feared the failure to reach quickly a consensus could invite another military intervention. Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam recently said the government even could amend the constitution to solve the crisis.