Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday categorically said the next general election would be held in time as per the constitution, no matter whether the BNP takes part in it or not.
"Ours is a multiparty democracy and it's up to the respective parties whether they will contest the polls," she told a crowded press conference at her official residence the Gono Bhaban yesterday, two days after her return from Italy.
"The election will take place in due time as per the constitution and those who believe in democracy and the peoples' right to vote, those who have trust in the country's people, will take part in the polls."
The PM then recalled the atrocities, torture and mayhem unleashed allegedly by the BNP-Jamaat men in 2013, 2014 and 2015 centring the January 5 polls, reports BSS.
Hasina made the comments as journalists drew her attention to a recent statement by BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir that the party would not participate in upcoming national polls without its Chairperson Khaleda Zia, who is now in jail over a corruption case.
The PM said her government would be able to do nothing if the BNP, which in not in parliament, decides to boycott polls again.
"What could we do if they want to stay away from polls?… the court has awarded her [Khaleda] the imprisonment, I did not and [so] I can't withdraw it either," she said.
The PM said the case against the BNP chief was filed in 2008 by the past military-backed interim government led by “her [Khaleda's] own confidants” while an independent Anti-Corruption Commission carried out the investigation.
"The trial ran for 10 long years when she [Khaleda] exhausted all the options to upset the trial proceedings by filing 80 writ petitions, got the judges changed thrice by expressing no confidence [on their neutrality] and had the hearings deferred 109 times,” she said.
The premier said the chief of the past-interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, was a trusted bureaucrat of Khaleda and on the other hand, she made MU Ahmed the army chief superseding nine generals while the then President Iajuddin Ahmed was also made the head of the state by her BNP government.
"Yet she [Khaleda] was convicted of graft for embezzling orphans money ... such a crime draws punitive actions both from divinity and the court."
She recalled that even Khaleda's counsel Barrister Rafique ul Haque had suggested her to refund the embezzled money so that she could be acquitted from the graft charges "but she did not do so".
Asked for comments about making Khaleda's "fugitive and convicted" son Tarique Rahman the acting BNP chief after her conviction, Hasina said "wasn't there any sane person in BNP?. . . couldn't she [Khaleda] keep confidence in any of her party leaders”.
QUESTION PAPER LEAKS
Asked for comments on the repeated incidents of question paper leaks sparking nationwide outcry, the PM urged the journalists to help the authorities track down the culprits.
"Please, find out those who are involved in the question paper leaks and surely we'll punish them. We don't want any more leaks of question paper,” she said.
However, she mentioned that in most cases, the question papers were leaked minutes before the exams began, claiming that the examinees had little scopes of having those questions.
She also opined that blocking the internet was not the right way to address the issue and the education minister or the secretary of the ministry should not be blamed for the leaks.
"But, it's not at all right and we'll definitely look into the matter,"
she said suggesting the journalists to use their pens to suggest abolishing the “tick-mark system” in the exams.
DIGITAL SECURITY ACT
Asked for comments about fears over the wrong application of the proposed Digital Security Act particularly against the newsmen, the PM assured the journalist community that there was nothing to fear.
"If no one commits any wrongdoing, there will be no miss application of it," she said.
Hasina also said if someone commits crime under the act, steps would be taken in this regard as cyber crimes have now become a global problem.
MEETING WITH POPE
About her meeting with Pope Francis, Hasina mentioned that the Pope urged the Myanmar government to be more responsible in solving the Rohingya crisis.
In this connection, the Pope also called on the global community to increase pressure on Myanmar for solving the crisis, the PM said.
She said the Pope lauded the role of Bangladesh in realising the rights of the migrants and refugees.
On her talks with Vatican Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the prime minister said he specially thanked the Bangladesh government and the people for giving shelter to over one million Rohingyas.
He described Bangladesh as a bright example of world brotherhood and humanity to be followed by other countries.
The prime minister said on the sidelines of the IFAD Governing Council Meeting, IFAD President Gilbert F Houngbo and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley separately called on her.
Hasina said she joined a mass reception in Rome organised by the Italy chapter of Bangladesh Awami League.
During her visit, she said, Bangladesh and the IFAD signed a loan agreement worth $92.03 million for the betterment of the vulnerable rural people of six northeastern districts of the country.
UNB adds: About the ongoing Rohingya issue, Hasina said the problem has been created by the Myanmar government and it is their responsibility to solve it. "From our side, we're holding dialogue with them. We've reached an understanding; we've formed a joint committee."
She said Bangladesh wanted to have a solution through dialogue as Myanmar is a neighbouring country. "We want Myanmar to take back their nationals through negotiations."
But, the prime minister said, the Myanmar side was delaying the repatriation process showing various excuses. "When the repatriation will start, the Rohingyas will be interested to go back to their homeland."
Hasina also mentioned that it is the matter of big concern what the the Myanmar side will be doing.