PM Hasina: Bangladesh gets free, fair elections only under Awami League

The military rulers formed parties and they never went to the people and asked to vote for them, the prime minister said

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said  free and fair elections are held only during the Awami League’s regimes as she always struggled to establish democracy and democratic rights in the country.

“Only during the Awami League government periods, you can see free fair elections,” she told BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg in an interview aired on Sunday.

Sheikh Hasina, who is now in London, said there was no democracy and democratic rights in Bangladesh after assassination of her father along with her 18 family members in 1975.

She said the military rulers ruled the country for a long time directly or indirectly and overtly or covertly after the assassination.

The military rulers formed parties and they never went to the people and asked to vote for them. “They used the army, administration and everything just to remain in power,” said the premier.

Replying to a question about the call of the late queen’s high commissioner on her government to conduct a free and fair process in the next year’s election in Bangladesh, she said: “Of course, it is my struggle to establish democratic system and free-fair elections.”  

Asked about the allegations of forced disappearance, Hasina said anyone can bring allegations but it needs to be judged how far it is true.

“Many people can place allegations. But you have to judge how far it is true. Before that no one should make any comment,” she said.

“How many people disappeared in your country and other countries, you can’t judge. In all these issues, I think all information needs to be collected first and then they can accuse (of anyone),” she said.

Asked about her personal memories with late Queen Elizabeth-II, the prime minister said she met her and talked to her in every commonwealth summit and other events she attended after becoming the prime minister.  

The queen always remembered her. Whenever the monarch didn’t see her in the programs, she used to enquire of her saying where is Hasina, she said.

Sheikh Hasina said she was so young when she first saw the Queen in 1961 during her visit to the erstwhile East Pakistan with binoculars through the window of her father’s office.

“When she visited the then Pakistan that means East Pakistan in 1961, I had the opportunity to see her. We were very young. We went to my father’s office because we knew that she (Queen Elizabeth-II) would be passing through that (nearby) road. We all of us – the whole family-- were waiting at the window with binoculars so that we could see her more,” she said, recollecting her memory.

“When I became the prime minister, I met her in every program.  I attended about seven commonwealth summits. So, every time I had the opportunity to talk to her and meet her,” she said.

The Bangladesh prime minister said the late queen also invited her to the dream Olympic game where she had a very good opportunity to discuss with her for a long time.  

“Even (when) she didn’t see me in the Commonwealth summit, she used to enquire --where is Hasina? I don’t see her,” she said.

The prime minister said yes, she is the queen of the United Kingdom. But she was also the leader of the Commonwealth. “So, as a member of Commonwealth countries she has a great value to us,” she said.

“We love the queen. She was so affectionate. I am lucky that she always remembered my name also. I have come here to pay my respect to her,” said Hasina.