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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08DHAKA873 2008-08-13 10:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Dhaka
Cable title:  

BANGLADESH'S CARETAKER GOVERNMENT'S POLITICAL

Tags:   PGOV PREL PINR PINS KDEM BG 
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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131051Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7235
INFO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8559
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2289
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9798
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0769
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 1403
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000873 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/PB AND SCA/FO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PINS KDEM BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH'S CARETAKER GOVERNMENT'S POLITICAL
ENDGAME--CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM

Classified By: Ambassador James F. Moriarty. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary
=======



1. (C) Bangladesh's Caretaker Government (CTG) remains
committed to holding parliamentary elections in December 2008
and wants to ensure that all parties take part in the
political process, according to one of the principal
architects of the January 11, 2007 State of Emergency.
Towards this end, the CTG is in the final stages of
negotiating with former BNP Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
regarding the terms of her release from prison, as well as
the future status of her elder son Tarique Rahman. The CTG
is considering holding a "summit" meeting between Khaleda
Zia, former Awami League Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Chief
Adviser Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, and Army Chief General Moeen
Uddin Ahmed in late-September. In preparation for this
meeting, the CTG and the former Prime Ministers have been
discussing the outlines of a political settlement, including
the future roles of the two ladies and the continuity of
reforms begun by the CTG. With four months to go until
elections, the CTG's plan appears to have a reasonable
prospect of succeeding.

Need for All Parties to Participate in Elections
============================================= ===



2. (C) During a breakfast meeting on August 13, Brigadier
General A.T.M. Amin, the Directorate General of Forces
Intelligence's Counterterrorism Chief and one of the
architects of the January 11, 2007 State of Emergency,
outlined for the Ambassador the Caretaker Government's (CTG)
political strategy for the transition back to elected
government by the end of 2008. Amin emphasized that the
CTG's primary goal was to ensure that all parties
participated in the elections and that a peaceful transition
would ensue. Of greatest concern to the CTG had been the
possibility that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party would
boycott the elections and take to the streets. A decision by
the BNP to abstain from the political process would also
likely leave its alliance partner, the Jamaat Islami
Bangladesh, on the sidelines. This could effectively
disenfranchise a significant percentage of voters and lead to
instability after elections, Amin stressed.

Negotiations for Khaleda Zia's Release and Future of BNP
============================================= ===========



3. (C) In order to convince the BNP to participate in the
political process, the CTG had been negotiating with former
BNP Prime Minister Khaleda Zia regarding her release from
prison, Amin continued. The CTG hopes that Zia, once out of
prison, would be able to reunite and revitalize her fractured
party and prepare it to contest elections. While the Awami
League remained confident it would win a substantial majority
in the December elections, the CTG thought a revitalized BNP
and its alliance partners would be able to mount a credible
challenge. The CTG's internal estimates showed the Awami
League winning a plurality, but not being able to form a
government on its own.

What about Tarique Rahman?
==========================



4. (C) A sticking point in the negotiations with Begum Zia
had been her insistence that her imprisoned elder son Tarique
Rahman be allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment,
Amin acknowledged. Zia's younger son, Arafat Rahman, had
left for Thailand in mid-July. Releasing Tarique was a
bitter pill for the CTG to swallow, however, given his
well-deserved reputation for corruption and ruthlessness.
Tarique's checkered past had also complicated efforts to find
a country willing to accept him for medical treatment. The
Ambassador explained to Amin the USG's anti-kleptocracy
policy and emphasized that the USG would need to make a
decision on eligibility if Tarique indicated he wanted to
travel to the United States. The CTG also remained concerned
that Tarique might try to reenter politics in the future,
Amin replied. Meanwhile, the legal cases against Tarique
continued, and some former associates (including former Home
Affairs Minister Babar) might finally be ready to testify
against him.


DHAKA 00000873 002 OF 002


Big Four Meeting in September
=============================



5. (C) Amin said that Former Awami League Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina might return to Bangladesh from the United
States in mid-September, although possible surgery could
delay her travel. In order to reach a consensus on some of
the remaining stumbling blocks to elections, including the
lifting of the State of Emergency and the holding of Upazilla
elections, the CTG was considering a meeting between Khaleda
Zia, Sheikh Hasina, Army Chief General Moeen Uddin Ahmed, and
Chief Adviser Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed. Among the topics to be
discussed would be Moeen's role following elections. Amin
said that Moeen was not interested in becoming President, but
he left the door open for the Army Chief to seek another
extension in his current position. Amin dismissed
speculation that former President, and Jatiya Party leader
Hossain Mohammed Ershad, could return to his former position.

Outlines of a Settlement
========================



6. (C) In its discussions with Hasina and Khaleda the CTG
had outlined the elements of a political settlement, Amin
noted. These included defining the role of the two former
Prime Ministers after elections. The CTG had also insisted
that the political parties ratify the actions it has taken
since January 2007. Other issues on the table included
constitutional reforms, including redefining the powers of
the Presidency; formation of a National Security Council;
possible formation of a &consensus8 government after
elections; and the continuation of the anti-corruption
campaign. In private, both former Prime Ministers had agreed
in principal on a number of these issues. Also, both
appeared committed to reforms within their parties, including
restructuring of leadership and disqualification of corrupt
individuals.

Comment
=======



7. (C) The game plan laid out by Brigadier Amin stands a
reasonable prospect of success. The plan reflects the clear
realization that the CTG's more ambitious political
objectives, particularly the removal of the two former PMs
from politics, could not be realized during its 24 month
tenure. In the past, the ladies have proven to be difficult
negotiating partners. While they appear to be inching
towards an agreement, there are still a number of thorny
issues to be resolved. There is a real possibility that
negotiations with Khaleda Zia will not be concluded much
before the anticipated early-November announcement of a date
for Parliamentary elections.
Moriarty