Bangladesh not a 'one-party state' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 02, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:26 AM, March 02, 2019

Bangladesh not a 'one-party state'

PM's adviser Rizvi tells Al Jazeera

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi has told Al Jazeera that Bangladesh is not a “one-party state”.

“Just because a party has been elected three times, it is not a one-party state,” Rizvi said during an episode of Al Jazeera's “Head to Head”.

He made the comment on the state of the country's democracy and whether it is heading towards authoritarianism.

“A total of 39 political parties participated in the election which was held in a free and fair manner,” he said.

The episode has already been released on Al Jazeera website and social media.

Al Jazeera's host Mehedi Hasan asked Rizvi about the arrest of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam.

“Shahidul was not arrested for giving an interview to Al Jazeera, he was arrested for spreading misinformation that incited violence,” Rizvi said.

“Freedom of speech has nothing to do with it,” he said, adding that freedom of speech prevails in Bangladesh.

He also mentioned that the minority communities in the country are now able to enjoy freedom of speech and are living safely in the country.

On August 5 last year, law enforcers picked up Shahidul, also the founder of Drik Gallery and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, from his home in Dhanmondi during a widespread demonstration for safe roads.

The arrest was made after Shahidul, also a social activist, gave an interview to Al Jazeera English where he criticised the government's role amid the protests.

He was sent to jail on charges of “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”.

On November 20, Shahidul was released from jail after he secured permanent bail from the High Court.

In reply to a question on the Rohingya crisis, Rizvi said the government of Bangladesh wants to ensure voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees when the conditions in Myanmar are conducive for a dignified return.

Referring to the government's plan on relocating the refugees to an island, he said the island has been developed to provide the refugees with better facilities and living conditions compared to the camps they are currently living in.

He added that the international organisations may visit the island and inspect the government's arrangements for the refugees' relocation.

In response to another question on whether Bangladesh wants Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for genocide of Rohingyas in Myanmar, Rizvi said anyone who is involved in genocide should be prosecuted.

A panel of three experts -- Bangladesh's High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland Saida Muna Tasneem, South Asia analyst at Essex University and former Amnesty International official Abbas Faiz, and Swedish Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil -- also joined the programme. 

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