For Sheikh Hasina, authoritarian tag is ‘badge of honour’, says son on poll eve

Published December 30, 2018
DHAKA: Sajeeb Wajed (top), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looks on during an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Souvenirs with pictures of Bangladeshi prime minister (bottom left) at a roadside shop. Law enforcement officials carrying ballot boxes (bottom right) ahead of Bangladesh’s 11th general election to be held today. —Agencies
DHAKA: Sajeeb Wajed (top), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looks on during an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Souvenirs with pictures of Bangladeshi prime minister (bottom left) at a roadside shop. Law enforcement officials carrying ballot boxes (bottom right) ahead of Bangladesh’s 11th general election to be held today. —Agencies

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina considers being called authoritarian by the western media a “badge of honour”, the leader’s son told Reuters on the eve of a national election on Sunday.

Hasina, who is widely expected to win a third straight term in office, has been hailed domestically for fast economic growth in the past decade and internationally for providing refuge to Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

But her government has been accused of suppressing dissent and jailing critics, including many supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Many journalists say she has intimidated the media by using vaguely worded laws against them.

Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wajed, however, told Reuters there was space for dissent in the Muslim-majority country of 165 million people, and that the Western media was unfair in its portrayal of his mother.

“You know what my mother told me this morning? ‘Branded authoritarian by the Western media now is a badge of honour’,” Wajed, who lives in Washington DC and runs an IT business in the United States, said in the prime minister’s official residence in Dhaka.

“Don’t you see anti-government posts on Facebook? Do you not see that? You are free to write whatever you want but you are not free to hurt someone. If you write something false and that causes an attack on someone, should there be no consequences?” He said the ruling party would reconsider a tough new media law it introduced and another it has tightened if it retains power.

DHAKA: Sajeeb Wajed (top), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looks on during an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Souvenirs with pictures of Bangladeshi prime minister (bottom left) at a roadside shop. Law enforcement officials carrying ballot boxes (bottom right) ahead of Bangladesh’s 11th general election to be held today.—Agencies
DHAKA: Sajeeb Wajed (top), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looks on during an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Souvenirs with pictures of Bangladeshi prime minister (bottom left) at a roadside shop. Law enforcement officials carrying ballot boxes (bottom right) ahead of Bangladesh’s 11th general election to be held today.—Agencies

Opposition, industries

The BNP, which is fighting this election as part of an alliance after boycotting the last one in 2014, says more than 8,200 leaders and activists of the alliance have been arrested since the election schedule was announced early last month. It added four workers had been killed and more than 12,300 injured in various assaults in that period.

The Awami League has denied any role in the violence.

Wajed dismissed accusations that the ruling party had “manipulated” police and the judiciary to get BNP chief and former prime minister Khaleda Zia jailed in February on corruption charges to weaken the opposition before the election.

“If courts and police are manipulated why did it take a decade to convict Khaleda Zia and her son? Why did it take us so long?” said Wajed, who speaks with an American accent.

He said if the Awami League formed another government, it would look at raising the minimum wage for workers in the garments industry, which generates sales of more than $30 billion a year and is the biggest after China’s. It only recently raised the level for the first time in five years, though workers have asked for more.

But he said the ultimate goal was to divert some of the garment workers to mobile phone and electronics manufacturing.

“Our goal is to move up the value chain,” he said. “We don’t want to stay stuck on the garments sector.”

DHAKA: Sajeeb Wajed (top), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looks on during an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Souvenirs with pictures of Bangladeshi prime minister (bottom left) at a roadside shop. Law enforcement officials carrying ballot boxes (bottom right) ahead of Bangladesh’s 11th general election to be held today.—Agencies
DHAKA: Sajeeb Wajed (top), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looks on during an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Souvenirs with pictures of Bangladeshi prime minister (bottom left) at a roadside shop. Law enforcement officials carrying ballot boxes (bottom right) ahead of Bangladesh’s 11th general election to be held today.—Agencies

600,000 security forces deployed

Bangladesh authorities have deployed around 600,000 police, army and other security forces ahead of Sunday’s vote, a senior official said, following a deadly campaign of clashes and the arrests of opposition activists.

The forces — which also include the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), navy, border and coast guards and auxiliary police units — will guard some 40,000 election booths across the poor South Asian nation.

“We have ensured the highest level of security in Bangladesh as per the capacity of the country,” Rafiqul Islam of the election commission told AFP. “We hope there will be a peaceful atmosphere,” he said.

Bangladesh’s telecoms regulator also ordered the country’s mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday “to prevent the spread of rumours”, that could trigger unrest, a spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2018

Opinion

Avoid Modi’s nationalist turf
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Avoid Modi’s nationalist turf

It remains the only party with a presence in every Indian state and makes it best equipped to effect the required radical change.
The lamp of guidance
Updated 19 Oct 2021

The lamp of guidance

Those seeking to learn from his example must follow the moral precepts he gave otherwise it is half-hearted devotion at most.

Editorial

Opposition’s chance?
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Opposition’s chance?

What the opposition can do is take advantage of the cleavage between PTI and the establishment, perhaps widen it and leverage it.
19 Oct 2021

Evading tax laws

MERELY 2.5m or 35pc of the 7.2m total registered taxpayers or NTN holders have filed their returns for tax year ...
19 Oct 2021

KCR delays

AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of...
Financial troubles
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Financial troubles

Growing trade gap is fuelling the current account deficit and bringing the already meagre foreign exchange reserves under stress.
18 Oct 2021

Complaint portal

IN a ruling on Thursday, the Mingora bench of the Peshawar High Court held that the Prime Minister’s Performance...
18 Oct 2021

Capital’s master plan

IT is encouraging that on Thursday, the restructured commission formed by the federal cabinet to revise ...