Prime minister Sheikh Hasina talks to BBC journalist Laura Kunessberg during an interview that was aired on 18 September 2022

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina in an exclusive interview with the BBC during her stay in the UK to pay respect to the late Queen Elizabeth II, said that she had struggled to establish the democratic process and free fair elections in Bangladesh, and that free and fair election was only held during the Awami League regime.

“Of course, it is my struggle to establish democratic system and free fair elections-- only during the Awami League time you can see free fair elections,” she said while replying to a question of BBC journalist Laura Kunessberg regarding her government’s commitment to make the next election free and fair.

During the interview that was aired on Sunday, the prime minister said that many people can lodge complaints about disappearances, but you have to judge how true these.

The prime minister also told BBC that her country had military rulers for a long time, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly.

“In 1975, my father (Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) was assassinated. He had been the president of the country and you know that my entire family, my mother, my three brothers, two sisters-in-laws, other family members, and a total of 18 members were brutally murdered,” she said.

Since then for 21 years, she said the country had witnessed coups time and again, adding that there were coup attempts for around 20 times and every time there was bloodshed. “There was no democracy, no democratic rights, so I struggled to establish democracy in my country,” she said.

Of course, it is my struggle to establish a democratic system and free fair elections-- only during the Awami League time you can see free fair elections
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh prime minister

About the allegations of disappearance, Sheikh Hasina said, “Many people can make allegations, but how far these are true, you have to judge. Before knowing that, no one should make any comment.”

The prime minister told the BBC that military rulers ruled the country for long and they formed parties and never went to the people of the country to ask for their votes.

“They (military dictators) used the army, used the administration and used everything just to cling to power,” she said. 

About launching crack downs on allegations of disappearance, the prime minister questioned the BBC journalist, “How many people disappear in your country as well as other countries? You can judge. All these issues I think first you have to take into consideration, all the information you should collect, then you can accuse.”

On how important the Commonwealth was to her and Bangladesh, she said, “Of course (it has great value), when we are together, there are many opportunities there, so it is good and important as we have one place where we can exchange our views, can adopt some ideas, or deliver some good things for the countries or the people. So that is why I feel it is good.”

Now at present, you see, she said one country cannot go alone as it is an interdependent world, adding, “So, under this circumstance, Commonwealth means a lot for the member countries. The countries can work together -- because there are many countries, developed countries, developing countries and poor countries, small island countries.”

About her personal memory with Queen Elizabeth II,  she said it was 1961 when she (Queen) visited then East Pakistan and she had the opportunity to see her (for the first time in person).

How many people disappear in your country as well as other countries? You can judge. All these issues I think first you have to take into consideration, all the information you should collect, then you can accuse
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh prime minister

She said: “We are very young and went to my father’s (Bangabandhu’s) office, because we knew that she was passing through that road. So, all of us, the whole family, were eagerly waiting in the windows with binoculars so we could see her more clearly.”

The prime minister added that when she became the prime minister, she met the queen at every Commonwealth summit.

“I attended about seven Commonwealth summits. Every time I had the opportunity to talk to her,” she said, adding that she said they talked for a long time as she went to attend the Olympic Games in response to the invitation of the late Queen.

Recalling beautiful memories with the late queen, the prime minister said, “She (Queen) had a wonderful memory and she used to inquire about me asking where Hasina was if she didn’t see me.”

The prime minister said her Majesty is a queen of the United Kingdom, no doubt about it.

“But she is a leader of the Commonwealth also. As a member of the Commonwealth countries, she has great value to us,” she said.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, signs a book of condolence at Lancaster House, in London on September 18, 2022 following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 18 September 2022

The prime minister said the late Queen was the monarch for about 70 years, adding, “I feel for this world she was not only a queen, but also a very affectionate and motherly personality, whenever I met her, I felt that.”

PM pays tribute to late Queen, signs condolence book

Prime minister showed her last respect to the Queen Elizabeth II. She paid respect to the late Queen at her lying-in-state in Westminster Hall and signed a book of condolence at Lancaster House.

Earlier on 15 September, Sheikh Hasina arrived in London on an official visit to the United Kingdom (UK) to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem while briefing the newspersons said that in the morning the prime minister, accompanying her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, went to the Palace of Westminster to pay their last respect to the Queen.

Sheikh Hasina there observed one-minute silence as the mark of respect to the late Queen at the Westminster Hall of the Palace of Westminster where the body of Elizabeth II was kept lying-in-state.

On her arrival at the Westminster, representative of the British Speaker received the Bangladesh prime minister and her younger sister.

Later, they were taken to the Lancaster House where the condolence book was opened.

Sheikh Hasina there wrote her condolence message in Bangla. The prime minister wrote, “I am expressing deep condolence on behalf of the people of Bangladesh, my family and my younger sister Sheikh Rehana.”

After that, the prime minister was taken to another room where she paid her tribute to the Queen in front of television.

In the Lancaster House, UK state minister for foreign affairs Vicky Ford received her.

The prime minister reminisced that she met the late Queen for eight or nine times and the Queen used to know her by her first name.

“She was a motherly figure to me, I lost someone like my mother,” she shared with the UK state Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“… it seems a guardian is gone (as she has died),” she added.

Bangladesh High Commissioner said, Sheikh Rehana, who is also a British citizen, wrote in the condolence book that “she is the queen of our hearts and will always remain.”