The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party said on Wednesday that the party would be willing to engage in talks with the ruling Awami League only if it accepted the demand for an election-time neutral government for the next general election.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir made the comment at a press conference at the BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office in the afternoon.

Fakhrul was responding to the comments of Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader, who, after the meeting with the visiting US pre-election observation team on Monday, said that the BNP had blocked the way to compromise on the upcoming election.

‘We have always said that there can be no discussion about anything other than a neutral government during an election,’ Fakhrul said.

Referring to AL, Fakhrul said that if it was ready to talk about a neutral government, it would join such talks.

‘We have already said that we can talk about it. If the government makes an announcement, we will accept it,’ he said.

The talks could then focus on the constitution of the caretaker government, he said during a media briefing.

The BNP leader accused the government of pushing the country towards a state of conflict and warned that the upcoming election would not be like those held in 2014 and 2018.

He said that the government was moving ahead with its plan to hold the one-sided polls by arresting and jailing the active BNP leaders and filing ‘false’ cases against them.

‘The government is leading the country to a state of total confrontation with the aim of holding another one-sided election without voters as they did in 2014 and 2018,’ he said.

Fakhrul warned that the people of the country would no longer let the government hold any lopsided polls.

‘We have made it very clear that there cannot be any elections under Sheikh Hasina. This government must resign, and this parliament must be dissolved for holding elections under a neutral administration,’ Fakhrul said.

The BNP leader said their party was now least bothered about the election as their main focus was on ensuring the fall of the government through a movement.

He also said that almost all political parties, except a few ones subservient to the government, do not recognise elections held in 2014 and 2018.

‘There is no point in holding elections this way. The entire world is saying that the last two elections were not acceptable and credible. So, what is the use of such polls? So, what will they gain by holding an unacceptable election by force?’ the BNP leader observed.

He said that their movement would intensify further in the days to come to force the government to step down.

The BNP leader condemned and protested the arrest of the party’s publicity secretary, Shahiduddin Chowdhury Anee, at his Dhanmondi residence in Dhaka on Wednesday.

During the arrest of Anee, he noted that law enforcement behaved like robbers, breaking into his house and arresting him dead at night.

‘The manner in which he [Anee] was arrested proves that this government is well on its way to a one-sided election by arresting the active leaders of the BNP and implicating them in false cases,’ Fakhrul said.

According to Fakhrul, the government had arrested and jailed many BNP leaders already before the announcement of the next election schedule.

‘Jailing and arresting opposition leaders are an old practice of autocratic regimes,’ he said.

BNP Standing Committee members Abdul Moyeen Khan, Nazrul Islam Khan, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury were present in the press conference.