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Hasina prepares to return home, demands early polls

world Updated: Apr 26, 2007 15:39 IST
HS Rao

As she prepared to return home, former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has demanded early elections which her Awami League party will fight to establish a secular democracy, rejecting "any kind of extremism".

The 60-year-old daughter of Bangladesh's founder leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman attributed Wednesday's decision of the military-backed caretaker government to lift the ban on her entry to the "tremendous national and international pressure".

She had been prevented from boarding a British Airways flight from London to Dhaka on Sunday last at the instance of the Bangladesh government.

"t is the pressure of the people at home and the role of media at home and abroad that forced them(caretaker government). There was tremendous national and international pressure and because of the pressure they had to withdraw (the ban)," she said.

Hasina also said it was her will-power and determination to return to her motherland which prevailed upon the caretaker government to reverse its decision. "They thought I will wilt under pressure but they were mistaken," said Hasina, who had faced a grenade attack on her life.

The Awami League Chief, during whose tenure as Prime Minister between 1996 to 2001 the Indo-Bangladesh treaty for sharing of the Ganges river waters was signed, disclosed that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had spoken to her over phone. The Indian High Commissioner to the U.K Kamalesh Sharma had also met her.

About her political beliefs, Hasina said "We believe in secular democracy and we do not encourage any kind of extremism.

Rather we are victims of terrorism. 21,000 of my people were killed and more than one lakh women including six-year-old girls raped. I survived a grenade attack in which 24 people were killed."

Stating that she would like to go back to her country "as soon as possible", 60-year-old Hasina, who ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, said the caretaker government was yet to withdraw its letter written to the British Airways not to carry Hasina on its flight in view of the ban.

During the last three days, she has been in touch with ministers, MPs and Lords here and Senators in the US.

Asked how she planned to tackle the murder and extortion cases filed against her by the interim Government in Dhaka, Hasina said "They filed false cases against me.

The very fact that they issued arrest warrant and the ban order simultaneously showed that they were false cases. They had to withdraw the ban."