Dhaka: President Zillur Rahman on Thursday kicked- off a key discussion with Bangladeshi political parties for setting up an independent election panel, a move questioned by the main opposition BNP which is yet to decide on taking part in the talks.

President Rahman held talks with former military ruler and Jatiya Party chief Hussein Muhammad Ershad and left-wing Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), the two allies of the ruling Awami League, on formation of an independent election commission.

The five-year tenure of ATM Shamsul Huda, the incumbent Chief Election Commissioner, and Election Commissioner M Sohul Hussein expires on February 4. The term of the M Sakhawat Hossain, another Election Commissioner, ends of February 14.

The move comes as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, in a key amendment earlier this year, scrapped the "caretaker government" system to supervise the election.

In the past, large-scale political violence over the setting up of the election panel ahead of the general election was responsible for the installation of an interim government in 2006 under emergency rules.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) questioned the "motive" behind the initiative to launch a dialogue for a political consensus on the appointment of the next chief and other election commissioners.

"Our constitution says that the prime minister will propose something and the president will sign it. We failed to ascertain the motive behind such an initiative by the President," Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, BNP’s Acting Secretary General told reporters.

Apparently referring to the President, Alamgir said "highly respected people do not determine the country’s politics".

He made it clear that BNP would only decide on joining the dialogue with the president after discussions in party forum.

Jatiya Party and JSD have suggested the formation of two separate committees to identify eligible persons to form a new Election Commission.

(Agencies)