Sir David Frost talks to Sheikh Hasina
Sir David Frost: Back in 1991, the military government of Bangladesh was toppled through a people's uprising, led jointly by Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. In the subsequent years both women served as prime minister. Last year an interim administration took charge to prepare for fresh elections. But in January the military stepped in to run that administration and the elections were postponed. Sheikh Hasina is now facing charges that relate to murder and corruption. Last week she was blocked from boarding a flight home from London after the military-backed government barred her from returning. But now there is amazing news this week about that and we are delighted to be joined by the former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

Now the dramatic news this week was that the government, having stopped you going back to your own country, has changed their mind and now, as of Wednesday, you are free to go back?

Sheikh Hasina Wazed: Well, yes. You are very correct that first they put cases against me. They issued a warrant against me. Then I think it is a tremendous pressure from the people of Bangladesh, home and abroad, the world leaders and especially the world media. And that is why they withdrew the ban. Now I can go back to my country and I am going back very soon. As soon as possible I am going back.

DF: And then you will have the opportunity in person to fight these charges that have been made.

SH: Yes, of course I want to fight it. Rule of law will take its own course. And it is very interesting that in one hand the same ministry file case against me issued warrant and other hand they banned me so that I cannot go back. So when I raise this issue perhaps then, and of course when I will go I will face the case because I know very well that all these charges [are] totally false.

DF: So you want to go back and say that loud and clear?

SH: Of course, yes. You know, my people are with me. So I will you know fight this in one hand politically other hand through judicial.

DF: Do you want to be prime minister of Bangladesh again?

SH: Well it depends on our people. If our people want me then. No, it is the people to decide.  How can I say that?

Of course I want to serve my people. I want to work for my people. And you know I dedicated myself for my people because our people are very poor, they were suffering. At this moment they don't have any political rights, they don't have the right to speak or they are suffering from economic problems. 

So I want to assist them because you know my father had a dream; he wanted to build up Bangladesh as a poverty-free country. So I also have the same [ideology] and I want to follow my father's [ideology] and build up Bangladesh as poverty-free, illiteracy-free. Because Bangladesh people fought for that cause, fought for their democratic right, their political right and economic right and fundamental rights.

DF: And you mention your father. I have very fond memories of interviewing him right at the beginning of 1972, when he just returned as the father of the new country really. Released by West Pakistan and started on that mission.

What do you think you could do if you are re-elected? The thing people always talk about the problem being basically too much corruption in Bangladesh. Is it possible to wipe that out or get rid of it?

SH: Actually what happened you know, 1975, when father of the nation was assassinated and military government took over power illegally, so they corrupted a whole nation. When you are not an elected government, when there is no democracy, then you cannot have, you cannot get the transparency or accountability. And when there is no accountability and transparency, obviously the corruption, nepotism, terrorist activities, all those things take place. So, corruption is there but during my time when our government, our Bangladesh Awami League was in power from 1996 to 2001. Beside this corrupt system we made tremendous progress. Our country we had four million metric food deficit. And we increased the production and country became self-sufficient in food. Our literacy rate was only 45 per cent. We increased up to 66 per cent. So poverty is our main enemy and main cause of course. So I am very much confident with the help of people, and our friends home and abroad, definitely we can double up our country and we can curb the corruption.

But now I think that they should hold elections as soon as possible. Otherwise, without transparency, without an elected government the country cannot run for a long time and poverty, I mean the corruption you cannot stop. Then again the same cycle will start, what happened after 1975. So we don't want that. We want true democracy and the democratic rights of our people.

DF: And will the famous battle that people talk about - you and Khaleda Zia - will you be the rival leaders again? Will that battle go on?

SH: Look, in a multi-party system there are many political parties who have different [ideology], different way of doing things. So that difference will remain, otherwise why are we different political parties? 

It is not that the rival, no. It is you know political [ideology], and how you run government, how you deal with people, how you work for people. Our policy and our aim is to help people, to develop people and work for people. Awami League always serves Bangladesh, the people of Bangladesh. When Awami League was in power what they have done for the people, what our people achieved during Awami League period, you must see that. That is important.

DF: You are going to go back, back home to face all these issues in a week or two, yes?

SH: That is true. I am planning to go back in the first week of next month, because I have some programme already set up. Actually you know, the moment they stop me then I'm really very fortunate that all our friends abroad and the member of parliament and member of House of Lords and Commons and secretary-general, they all give me time. So I want to meet with them because you know it is necessary I feel. But of course I am very eagerly waiting to go back to my people, because I couldn't accept when there was a bar then I couldn't accept it. That is my country. I am a citizen of the country.

And as you know that under the leadership of our father of the nation, the leader of the movement for the liberation for that democracy, so how can they stop me? I am the daughter of the father of the nation. I was a prime minister and I was a member of parliament four times. And I struggled for democracy, for the fundamental rights of my people and I devoted myself for my people. I spend most of the time with my people. So how can they stop me? I couldn't accept it.


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