Sheikh Hasina has reiterated her commitment to holding free and fair elections, saying it is part of her “struggle to establish democracy”.
The prime minister spoke about Bangladesh’s politics, along with her country’s “love” for Queen Elizabeth II, in an interview with the BBC in London.
Laura Kuenssberg, BBC’s former political editor who now hosts prime time 'Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg' show, threw questions about concerns over the fairness of the next parliamentary election to be held at the end of 2023, or early 2024.
The UK High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Dickson has called for free and fair elections, Kuenssberg said in the interview aired on BBC Bangla on Sunday.
Asked if she will commit to that, the prime minister said Bangladesh had reeled under military rules for a long time following the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975. “There was no democracy; no democratic right. I struggled to establish democracy.”
Referring to BNP founder Ziaur Rahman and Jatiya Party founder HM Ershad, Hasina said the military rulers formed political parties, but they never went to the people to seek votes.
They used the army, the administration and everything else just to stay in power while Bangladesh experienced free and fair elections only when the Awami League was in power, she remarked.
After Kuenssberg said she clearly heard Hasina claiming that the elections held during her government were free and fair, the prime minister said, “Of course. Of course. It is my struggle.”
“It is my struggle to establish [a] democratic system, free and fair election."
The United Nations has expressed concerns over reports of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh, Kuenssberg noted.
Hasina said anyone can make an allegation, but people should see how true it is before making comments.
Asked what her government was doing about the allegations, the prime minister said people should check how many people disappear in the UK and other countries as well first before accusing her administration of being involved in enforced disappearances.
‘LOVE THE QUEEN’
Hasina reflected on her memories of Queen Elizabeth II, saying she has “great value” to Bangladesh, a Commonwealth country.
The prime minister praised the Commonwealth, saying no country can go alone and the platform has created opportunities for sharing views and ideas.
“We love the queen. She was so affectionate. Not only that, I am very lucky that she always remembered my name. I have come here to pay respect to her.”
Hasina recalled that her entire family had gone to her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s office in 1961 to see Queen Elizabeth II passing the street outside during her visit to Bangladesh, then East Pakistan.
She said she had met the queen every time she visited the UK after becoming prime minister. The Bangladesh leader joined seven Commonwealth summits and the 2012 Olympic Games.
“She was not only a queen, but a very affectionate motherly personality. Whenever I met her, I felt that.”