UN emissary on visit to Dhaka to resolve political crisis

Dhaka, Dec 7: UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernández-Taranco has arrived here in an apparent last-ditch effort to broker a deal between Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League (AL) party and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) over the issue of conducting Jan 5 parliamentary polls.

The UN chief’s emissary, who arrived Friday evening, to “encourage dialogue” at a time when politics has witnessed an eruption of violence, will officially begin his tour Saturday by meeting a number of political leaders, bdnews24.com reported.

This is Fernández-Taranco’s second visit following his maiden effort to “encourage dialogue” nearly seven months ago. It comes as the main opposition BNP and 17 other parties Thursday decided to extend their 131-hour non-stop blockade by three more days from Saturday onwards.

The UN resident coordinator in Dhaka, Neal Walker, in a statement earlier said the visiting envoy would “encourage dialogue and conditions conducive for parliamentary elections scheduled for 5 January 2014″.

“This visit is a follow-up to his mission to Bangladesh in May this year,” he added.

The UN envoy will meet Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in the morning and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the afternoon. He will also meet the Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad and the BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia.

The latest visit has come in the light of Khaleda Zia-led main opposition BNP deciding to boycott the due elections. The ruling Awami League’s key ally Jatiya Party also announced its withdrawal from the polls even after letting its candidates file their nominations.

The AL and the BNP are at loggerheads over holding the elections under a caretaker government.

AL had constituted an “all-party” cabinet which was rejected by the BNP, as it seeks a non-party caretaker government just like previous elections.

Countries including the US, Canada, and neighbouring India and China are trying to help facilitate matters and end the persisting political stalemate in Bangladesh.

The US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal and the Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh have already visited Bangladesh, holding talks with political leaders and members of the civil society.

But the BNP and 17 other opposition parties are persisting with its transport blockade since Nov 30, which has left many dead and injured due to arson and bomb blasts.

Taranco will leave Bangladesh Dec 10.

IANS