Bangladesh PM Hasina seeks people’s support at victory rally

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Supporters wave Awami League political party flags during a rally celebrating the party's overwhelming victory in last month's election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (AP Photo)
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Supporters of Bangladesh Awami League attend a grand rally in Dhaka on January 19, 2019, to celebrate its landslide victory in 11th parliamentary election held on December 30. (AFP)
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A supporter of Bangladesh Awami League attends a grand rally in Dhaka on January 19, 2019, to celebrate its landslide victory in 11th parliamentary election held on December 30. (AFP)
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A supporters of Bangladesh Awami League with his hair cut like the party election symbol (boat) gestures in Dhaka on January 19, 2019, as they attend a grand rally, to celebrate its landslide victory in 11th parliamentary election held on December 30. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2019

Bangladesh PM Hasina seeks people’s support at victory rally

  • The opposition is demanding a new election, saying the Dec. 30 polls were rigged
  • The Election Commission and Hasina have rejected the allegation

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who won a third straight term with an overwhelming majority in last month’s election, sought the people’s support at a victory rally Saturday amid international calls for an investigation into alleged irregularities during the polls.
The opposition is demanding a new election, saying the Dec. 30 polls were rigged, an allegation the Election Commission and Hasina have rejected.
On Saturday, Hasina told tens of thousands of her supporters in a park in Dhaka, the capital, that she would “work for all” amid criticism that she could become increasingly authoritarian.
A Hasina-led alliance won 288 seats in the 300-seat Parliament in the election. The opposition-led alliance won only seven seats, with all of its lawmakers refraining from taking their oaths to protest the results.
More than a dozen people were killed in election-related violence on the day of the polls, and the election campaign was dogged by allegations of arrests and the jailing of thousands of Hasina’s opponents.
Hasina’s archrival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has been in jail since February last year for corruption and was deemed ineligible to run for office because of a case that her supporters say was politically motivated.
The Election Commission and other departments were also accused of overlooking complaints of irregularities by the opposition. Ahead of the election, a new digital security law was enacted that raised concerns it would curb speech and media freedoms.
Hasina, who had asked her supporters to avoid any immediate celebration after the election, thanked all political parties for contesting and termed the polls “fair.”
But she would not utter a single word Saturday about the opposition demand for a new election or global calls for an investigation into the allegations of irregularities.
“I want cooperation from the people ... let’s get united and build Bangladesh,” she told her cheering supporters, many of whom waved small red-and-green national flags.
“The (people’s) verdict in the Dec. 30 polls came against terrorism, corruption and drugs,” she said. “I will uphold their mandate, if necessary, by sacrificing my life.”
While New York-based Human Rights Watch urged an independent investigation into the alleged irregularities, the US, the EU and the UN all expressed their concerns. But powerful countries including the US pledged to continue to work with the Hasina-led government and the opposition for democratic advancement in the South Asian nation of 160 million people, which is a parliamentary democracy.
Congratulatory messages to the new government came from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan and many other countries, giving Hasina confidence that her development agenda has attracted nations, many of which are directly involved in trade and big infrastructure development schemes in Bangladesh. Before the election, Hasina drummed up support for her development schemes ranging from a nuclear power plant to a new seaport.
On Saturday, Hasina promised to curb poverty as she painted a scene of “a developed country in South Asia” by 2041.


India might resort to covert operations: Pakistan FM

Updated 17 August 2019

India might resort to covert operations: Pakistan FM

  • Qureshi praised the Security Council’s call to all parties to refrain from action that could aggravate the situation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned that India might resort to a “false flag operation” to divert attention from Jammu and Kashmir following a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the issue.

“To divert international attention, most probably India will resort to some false flag operation. We want to tell the international community that we have doubts about India’s intentions. We know their plans and the nation is ready for it,” he said.

In a letter to the Security Council on Aug. 13, Qureshi asked for an urgent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir after its special autonomous status was revoked by India. Indian-administered Kashmir has remained under lockdown, with phone and internet services suspended since the decision on Aug. 5.

Following the Security Council meeting Qureshi addressed a joint press conference with Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, who said that Islamabad was ready to “defend any misadventures on the part of India.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had formed a special committee to discuss future action on the issue, Qureshi said.

Kashmir desks will be established at various Pakistani embassies around the world “in order to carry out effective communication on the matter,” he said.

“The committee on Kashmir has members from all concerned parties, including members of opposition parties.” 

Qureshi praised the Security Council’s call to all parties to refrain from action that could aggravate the situation.

“We achieved a milestone yesterday, which shocked India. The Kashmir issue was raised at a platform which is responsible for resolving the dispute,” he said.

The foreign minister commended the “indomitable and unbroken spirit” of residents in Indian-administered Kashmir, saying that despite the curfew Kashmiris came out of their houses on Friday to offer special prayers.

“It was a glimpse into their emotions, into what it will be like after the curfew lifts,” he said.

Qureshi said that world bodies have responded positively to Pakistan’s call to discuss the issue. “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called for an immediate end to the curfew,” he said.

Discussing India’s move to revoke Article 370 of the constitution, Qureshi said: “Pakistan does not recognize Article 370 of the Indian constitution, it is not our concern. Our concern is with the forceful change in Kashmir’s demographic and violation of the rights of the people of Kashmir.”

Meanwhile, Ghafoor said that the Pakistan army will respond to any act of aggression by India.

“Pakistan is a responsible state, but India has always threatened us. We are planning how to manage the threats from India,” he said.

“At present, the biggest issue in Jammu and Kashmir is human rights violations. The entire region has been turned into a prison,” Ghafoor said.

A former Pakistani ambassador to India, Abdul Basit, backed the foreign minister’s covert operation claim, saying that amid growing international pressure a staged terrorist attack by India could be used to divert attention from Jammu and Kashmir.

He said any direct attack on Pakistan by India would be a huge mistake. “They (India) might have worked out their strategies, but when the situation is so tense, it would not be wise to open another front. The situation will be clearer after the curfew is lifted, but I don’t see direct conflict anytime soon.”

Basit urged Pakistan to arrange an OIC foreign ministers summit in Islamabad as quickly as possible.

“Along with the summit, Pakistan should also hold a convention of Kashmiri diaspora in London or somewhere that can come up with a resolution. Pakistan should also deploy a special envoy on Kashmir,” he said.