Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said police will not barricade the road to her office if the BNP wants to besiege it as part of a democratic movement, but warned that her government will not allow violence.
Speaking at a ruling party meeting via video link on Saturday, she said she was ready to sit with the BNP leaders and listen to what they have to say, as the opposition party threatened to stage a boycott of the next general election if the Awami League oversees the ballot.
The Awami League chief also refuted the opposition party's claim that its leaders are barred from exercising their right to free speech. “They [BNP leaders] speak throughout the day and yet they allege they are not allowed to talk.”
“People don’t join their marches and they allege their supporters are barred from joining their programmes. Why would people go to them? With what expectation?”
Hasina said she had instructed police not to obstruct demonstrators if they wanted to lay siege to her office. “Let them walk in. I’ll treat them to tea and listen to what they have to say. I believe in democracy.”
“(But) They will get a befitting response if they burst bombs and carry out vandalism. There’s no problem if they demonstrate democratically. In fact, they’ve continued their movement.”
The prime minister again criticised the BNP for keeping Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman at the helm despite their conviction on corruption charges. “Who will become the head of government if they come to power? Will it be people who embezzle funds?” Hasina asked.
“The BNP’s constitution bars convicts from holding positions, but the party has breached it,” she remarked.
Hasina said the Awami League salvaged Bangladesh’s image “ruined by the BNP”. She slated the opposition party for criticising the government for an electricity crisis triggered by a global fuel shortage due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
“During the BNP government, people were shot dead for demanding fertilisers and electricity. In Dhaka [a BNP MP] had to flee the wrath of people during protests over water and power shortage. And they [BNP] are lecturing us now.”
Hasina defended her government’s decision to purchase power from private firms, saying the move created jobs and strengthened the economy.