War crimes trial not act of vengeance
PM tells Al JazeeraUnited News of Bangladesh . Dhaka
Dismissing the allegation that the trial of war criminals is an act of vengeance against the opposition, the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Saturday said ‘these criminals should be punished.’
‘Those who had lost their family members, it’s their demand that these criminals be punished,’ she told legendary journalist Sir David Frost in an interview aired on Qatar-based television Al Jazeera early Saturday.
When her attention was drawn to opposition parties’ claim that the war trial is a ‘mockery’ in the name of trial, Hasina said: ‘Sometimes, you can hear the hue and cry from many quarters that the government is taking revenge on the opposition, which is not true. I don’t know why these people are opposing it.’
Recalling the horrible memories of the 1971 Liberation War, Hasina said: ‘Miles after miles of human habitations were burned down, women were raped and children were killed indiscriminately. Everywhere dead bodies were lying. I’ve seen that in with own eyes.’
‘They killed our people, they raped our women, they tortured, especially those who were Bengalis. They’re war criminals, killers. So, they should be punished.’
When Frost, who died on August 31, pointed to the criticism that those who were awarded death sentences are senior leaders from the opposition parties, she said: ‘Law will take its own course.’
She also said that the trial of the war criminals was one of the main election pledges of her party and the people of the country voted her party to power for this. ‘If you don’t try these people, you can’t move forward because it’s just like a curse.’ Sheikh Hasina explained to Sir David Frost why she believes it is important that local collaborators should face trial.
When asked about the accuracy of three million Bengalis killed during the nine month-long war, Sheikh Hasina insisted it as accurate. ‘Every family suffered. It’s absolutely correct, the number declared is absolutely correct.’
Journalist Frost visited Dhaka and interviewed Sheikh Hasina - just as he had interviewed her father, then prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman 41 years ago, shortly after he had led the country to independence.
Starting from the history of 1947 partition, the interview covers a wide range of issues, including the situation that led to Bangladesh’ s independence and the role of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the struggle and, events in Hasina’s life till date, including assassination of Bangbandhu and attempts on her life.
She also shared less pleasant memories and told Sir David Frost the harrowing story on the night of August 15, 1975, when army officers stormed into her family’s house and assassinated her father and 17 other members of the family.
‘These Bengali people who my father loved so much, how could they kill him, how could they assassinate him?’ she said.
Hasina also talked about recent issues like war crimes trial, upcoming general elections and the tussle between Awami League and BNP.
Talking about the next general elections, she said: ‘It’s totally up to the people of the country. If they’re satisfied, if they vote for me, I’ll return.’
Referring to her hectic labour to establish people’s voting and constitutional rights, she said that people would get the chance to vote freely and fairly and choose their own government.
She also said that her party was established to ensure people’s right and that it believes in democracy.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that killing, conspiracy and manipulation had taken place every time during local elections or any by-election during the previous governments except AL. ‘So, there’s a basic difference,’ she added.
When she was asked to work with opposition leader Khaleda Zia, she said: ‘We’ve ideological differences.’
Talking about the disasters like Rana Plaza collapse, the PM said the responsibility to ensure safety lies with everybody. She also termed the disaster a ‘wake up call for everyone’.
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