Dhaka, March 11 (www.bdnews24.com): Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said here on Saturday that her party Awami League’s defeat in the 2001 national elections was due to an international conspiracy to gain control over Bangladesh’s natural gas. The conspirators were the Indian external espionage agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the US embassy, she charged, while speaking to the party’s young women’s league.
This is the first time that Hasina has leveled such an allegation against RAW and the US embassy in Bangladesh.
Many Awami League leaders have in private made allegations against the then RAW station chief, who was seen to be too close to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia’s son and influencing the BNP through him.
After the BNP won the polls, the then Indian National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, rushed to Dhaka to congratulate Khaleda, and told journalists that India “would not put all its eggs in one basket.”
The BNP assumed power after the Eighth Parliamentary Elections in 2001 getting 41.40 percent of votes to secure 193 parliamentary seats. Its ally the Jamaat-e-Islami clinched 17 seats with 4.28 percent votes. The Awami League, which got 40.02 percent votes, had to leave office with only 62 seats in Parliament.
“I wanted to use the country’s resources for the people first…Wanted to keep a 50-year reserve, then to consider whether to sell or not. But what happened? … The RAW representative, he had been doing rounds at the Hawa Bhaban (Khaleda Zia’s political office then). It was the same case for the American embassy’s representative,” Hasina told the Leagues’ young women’s wing.
She claimed that the Awami League was defeated as an outcome of a conspiracy hatched by other countries to take control of Bangladesh’s natural gas reserves.
Hasina had said on several occasions after that election, that a conspiracy was on against her as she had not agreed to sell gas to foreign companies while being in power between 1996 and 2001.
Leaders of the BNP, which now has no representation in the House after boycotting the 2014 polls, have called upon the government to make public the deals to be signed during Hasina’s upcoming India visit.
Referring to that, Hasina said: “Now we hear so much anti-India statements. I ask today, who promised before the 2001 polls to sell gas to India which the American companies wanted? It was Khaleda Zia… she did that to come in power. Not me. And now they come up with anti-India statements.”
Hasina said that it was the BNP who agitated against the Farakka Barrage time and again. “You (Khaleda) even organized a long march to Farakka … And forgot to raise the Ganges water issue during your India visit!”
During her India visit as Prime Minister after the 1991 election, Khaleda Zia did not discuss the issue.
“Who’s the broker then?” asked Hasina.
BNP leaders have repeatedly blamed the Awami League for protecting India’s interests.
The Ganges water treaty was signed in 1996 when the Awami League came in power for the first time in 21 years after the 1975 coup.After the 2009 polls, the maritime boundary issues with India and Myanmar were solved.And after the 2014 elections, the land boundary issue was resolved with India.
Hasina said that the post-1975 government of military dictators Ziaur Rahman, HM Ershad and even Khaleda did not address these matters.
“If they are so patriotic, then why didn’t they raise these issues,” she said. “They behaved like brokers.”
(The featured picture at the top shows Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina addressing the Awami Leagues Women’s Youth Wing)