Hasina urges international community to press for polls


London/Dhaka : Former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, now in London, has urged the world to persuade the military-backed caretaker government in her country to hold free and fair elections at the earliest.

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“We want the international community to put pressure on the caretaker government to hold free and fair elections at the earliest,” she said in a lecture on Democracy and Human Rights in Bangladesh at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

“We are struggling for our democratic rights,” Hasina said, adding that there had been 19 attempts on her life and that in the last attack on her 24 people, including 22 of her party men, were killed.

The Daily Star quoted the Awami League leader as saying: “The electoral machinery and judiciary were politicised and the electoral rolls manipulated during the regime of Khaleda Zia. We wanted the caretaker government to correct the electoral rolls and hold fair and free elections.

“According to the constitution, the election had to be held within 90 days but so far they have not even started revising the electoral roll. Instead of being a caretaker government it has become a takeover government.”

Speaking at the event, parliamentarian Jeremy Corbyn told Hasina that Britain, being a major trading partner and donor of Bangladesh, would like to see that the caretaker government holds early elections.

Corbyn said it was strange that the caretaker government levelled charges of murder and extortion against Hasina and, when she said she would return and face the charges, the regime imposed a ban on her return.

Hasina’s repeated calls for early polls coincide with the visit to Washington of retired diplomat Farooq Sobhan as special envoy of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Both Britain and the US, while supportive of Ahmed’s interim government’s efforts at reforms, have sought a timeframe for early polls.

In particular, they disapproved of the regime’s recent abortive attempts to exile Hasina and her rival, former prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia.

While Zia wriggled out of a deal that would have given her and her family members safe passage to Saudi Arabia, Dhaka had to reverse a decision asking British Airways not to carry Hasina on board a flight on April 22.

Hasina returns home Monday.