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Talks with BNP speed up: Ashraf

New ministers take charges

Staff Correspondent

LGRD and cooperatives minister Syed Ashraful Islam said on Monday that the Awami League had speeded up the talks with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party that started before the January 5 election to reach a political consensus. 
‘We have not stopped the dialogue that began before the election. We will continue the discussion with the BNP and run the government simultaneously to implement Awami League’s election manifesto in the next five years,’ he told reporters at the secretariat after 
taking charge of the LGRD ministry he was responsible for in the previous term.
He hinted that negotiations were going on offstage after a series of meetings between the AL and BNP at the secretary level which was brokered by the United Nations for an inclusive election. 
‘We were almost closer to a consensus. But both the AL and the BNP are collective organisations and final decisions depend on their leaderships,’ Ashraful, also general secretary of the AL, said.
He said that boycotting the elections was a big mistake for the BNP. ‘I will also advise my party to come out of the culture of polls boycott,’ he said in reply to a question.
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed and health minister Mohammad Nasim at their respective ministries said that the AL had been elected for a five-year term.
‘Though [the Ershad-led] Jatiya Party  is a part of the new cabinet, it will play the role of the opposition in parliament by making constructive criticism of the government’s activities,’ Tofail said. 
Asked whether the government would hold mid-term elections if there was a consensus with the BNP, the veteran politician replied, ‘If there is a consensus, many things can happen’.
Nasim, however, thanked BNP for suspending the rail-road-waterways blockade programme. ‘It is positive that the BNP has suspended the blockade…Now they will have to sever ties with Jamaat for dialogue,’ said the new heath minister.
There were hardly any activities in the secretariat as most officials and employees at different ministries were busy receiving the new ministers.
Cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor said that the AL government’s success would depend on how much it could deliver to the people. 
Civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon said that the new government’s main challenge was to ensure security of the people.
Jatiya Party-JP chairman Anwar Hossain Manju, who got the charge of the environment ministry, said he was not worried about the political crisis.
Water resources minister and Ershad-led Jatiya Party leader Anisul Islam Mahmud observed that the country was passing through a critical time. He said his party would make ‘constructive criticism’ against the government and at the same time remain in the government. 
Awami League president Sheikh Hasina on Sunday was sworn in as the prime minister of the AL-led coalition government for the second consecutive term after securing an absolute majority in the controversial 10th parliamentary polls boycotted by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 18-party alliance.  

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