WikiLeaks 2: The beginning of 2006 pre-polls dialogue

Khaleda Zia-Sheikh Hasina
Khaleda Zia-Sheikh Hasina

এখন থেকে নিয়মিতভাবে উইকিলিকসের ফাঁস করা মার্কিন দূতাবসের তারবার্তা হুবুহু ছাপা হবে এই সাইটে। সাথে থাকবে মূল কেবল-এর লিংক।

Sheikh Hasina rejected outright the dialogue offer made by Khaleda Zia, demanded that her proposals be accepted without discussion


  • AL-led alliance cancels caretaker government provision in June 2011;
  • BNP-led alliance demands its restoration;
  • AL proposes polls under small-size government with limited power; Election Commission to be strengthened;
  • BNP opposes partisan-government during polls; rejects EC appointments; demands dialogue’s proposal formally;
  • Hasina invites Khaleda for talks in JS, to take a group photograph with the first-ever speaker;
  • Khaleda invites Hasina on tea but demands that non-party government has to be accepted in principle;
  • Ashraf says formal proposals under process;
  • Khaleda on April 5 dismisses dialogues, declares one-point movement;
  • Hasina in May: door for dialogues still open; AL proposes Hasina to head govt
  • Khaleda opposes proposal; gives 48-hour ultimatum to restore caretaker government
  • Ashraf on August 9 says the issues will be solved at last minute discussions;
  • Khaleda on August 9 assures no movement after Eid if non-party government ensured to hold the polls; demands level-playing field, neutral administration and judiciary;
  • Hasina dismisses caretaker administration for polls fearing take over; claims EC-government capable of holding impartial elections;

Bangladesh now witnesses a scenario in politics like it had experienced in early 2006, over the pre-election negotiations between the two major political parties, when the opposition gave proposals to the government as preconditions to its participation in the general elections – expected in January 2007.

The series of events were described by then chargé d’ affaires in Dhaka, Judith A Chammas in his letter to Washington on March 2, according to a US embassy cable leaked by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in 2011.

On February 14, then opposition chief Sheikh Hasina returned to parliament after a long boycott and placed her proposals on the EC’s reforms and the neutral caretaker government system to oversee the polls.

Responding to the call, former prime minister Khaleda Zia in parliament on February 28 proposed formation of a committee to discuss the opposition’s proposals on electoral reforms and the election-time government. She said the committee may comprise MPs or even with leaders of political parties not having any representation in parliament.

The next day, Hasina reacted sharply, the cable reads. Speaking at a Chittagong rally, she dismissed Khaleda’s offer as “unnecessary,” saying that the “proposals were clear and required no further discussion.” She said the offer of dialogue had been “a ploy to mask a BNP conspiracy to steal the next [2007] elections.”

The Awami League president threatened “oust-government movement” if the BNP refused to accept her proposals. She also announced plans to besiege the Election Commission offices across the country for March 12 to protest the insistence taken by the Justice MA Aziz-led EC on creating a new voter list from scratch.

Party leaders contradict Hasina

The US envoy in the letter mentioned opinions of two senior Awami League leaders who differed with Hasina over the dialogue offer.

Suranjit Sengupta told him that he doubted Khaleda’s “sincerity in discussing reform proposals, but claimed that Hasina did not outright reject” her offer.

Central leader Mukul Bose predicted that the party would probably respond “favourably” to the call.

The Bangladeshi newspapers that were “normally critical of the government” also “welcomed” Khaleda’s offer of dialogue as a “tentative step forward,” reads the cable.

BNP’s position hazy

According to another cable sent on March 23, the US envoy said the BNP’s “openness to compromise in any reform dialogue was unclear.”

On March 13, Khaleda publically repeated the government’s position that the armed forces would remain under the control of the president during the polls. The stance was “contrary to the opposition’s demand to place the military under the authority of the caretaker government.”

The BNP chairperson also “retreated from her initial offer to include representatives from outside the parliament on the committee, instead of limiting to MPs.”

Again, Hasina reacted to the public statements saying that Khaleda’s “original offer for talks had been only a ploy to kill time.” The Awami League chief also questioned her commitment to a constructive dialogue, given her public rejection of a key opposition demand.

Envoy’s observation

Chammas mentioned that the Awami League’s “commitment to a substantive discussion is also unclear.”

Citing insincerity, the opposition leaders refused to respond to a March 14 invitation over the phone from the chief whip of parliament to start the procedures for forming the committee as proposed by the prime minister.

“The Awami League said they would respond to formal written proposals only and reiterated their demand for acceptance of the reform proposals in principle before the start of any dialogue,” reads the cable.

Finally, BNP approaches formally

Things changed in late March. On March 20, the then BNP secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan formally invited the general secretary of Awami League, Abdul Jalil, for a dialogue.

The opposition termed the formal invitation a “primary victory” of resulting from their street agitation for reforms, the US envoy said.

On March 22, Jalil responded to Bhuiyan asking for clarification regarding the composition and timeframe of the proposed committee, and whether the Awami League’s alliance partners were included since limiting participation to MPs would exclude the non-MP partners.

Bhuiyan termed the opposition response “a positive development.”

cable link


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