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Home > News > PTI

B'desh: Sheikh Hasina to return on May 7

H S Rao in London | May 03, 2007 09:29 IST

Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed said she will return to Dhaka on Monday and urged the international community to prevail upon the military-backed caretaker government to hold fair and free elections in the country at the earliest.

"I am leaving London on May 6, reaching Dhaka on May 7. After that I do not know what will happen. I am prepared to make any sacrifices (for restoration of democracy)," Sheikh Hasina said while speaking at the Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies, SOAS, University of London on Democracy and Human Rights in Bangladesh on Wednesday night.

She was supposed to return on April 23 but the caretaker government imposed a ban on her return, issued arrest warrant and asked the British Airways not to issue her a boarding pass. The ban was lifted on April 25.

Hasina, leader of the Awami League, said people in Bangladesh were being deprived of freedom of speech and human rights.

"We are struggling for our democratic rights," she said.

She said there were 19 attacks on her life so far and in the last attack, 24 people, including 22 of her party men, were killed.

Hasina accused her political rival Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, of manipulating electoral rolls and interfering in the electoral process.

She regretted that barring 9 and half years of the rule by Awami League, Bangladesh had been ruled by military or quasi-military regime for about 25 years. Hasina was prime minister between 1996 and 2001.

During the regime of Khaleda Zia 'the electoral machinery and judiciary were politicized and the electoral rolls manipulated. 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," the former prime minister said.

She described the caretaker government as an 'unelected and unconstitutional government.'

Hasina said that during the last five years, her party had suffered a lot.

"21,000 of our partymen were killed´┐Ż about 200,000 were kidnapped and raped. They included a six-year-old girl. We want the international community to put pressure on the interim government to hold free and fair elections at the earliest," she said.

Jeremy Corbyn, UK lawmaker, 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.

In the normal course, if she was guilty she would have thought twice before volunteering to return, he said.

Corbyn assured her that Britain being a major trading partner and donor of Bangladesh would try to prevail upon the caretaker government to hold early fair and free elections.

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