PM Hasina slams USA for targeting her administration with RAB sanction
Published: May 29, 2023 10:50 AM
Sheikh Hasina file photo:VCG

Sheikh Hasina file photo:VCG

In a recent interview with BBC during her visit to the UK, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched a scathing critique against the USA, accusing the country of harbouring a bias against her administration.

She pointed out the sanctions imposed on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as a reflection of that bias.

During the half-hour-long conversation with journalist Yalda Hakim, the premier emphasised the remarkable progress achieved in Bangladesh over the past 14 years, attributing it to the country's unwavering commitment to democracy.

Various topics were discussed in the interview, including concerns raised by international human rights organisations regarding the human rights situation in Bangladesh, extrajudicial killings, US sanctions, democracy, and the Rohingya issue.

Prime Minister Hasina vehemently rejected claims of autocratic or dictatorial practices in her country, emphasising the significant strides made toward establishing a genuine democratic system. 

"In the last 14 years alone, we have witnessed the emergence of a robust democratic system, enabling us to drive positive change," she said.

During the interview, the focus revolved around the sanctions on RAB and the state of human rights in the country.

When asked to comment on the sanctions imposed on RAB, she said that the special force, which had been established in 2004 following USA's advice, had received training and equipment from the North American country. 

She believes that RAB operated in a manner taught by the USA. Hence, she found the sanctions puzzling.

"This is a big question for me too," she added.

"I don't know. Perhaps the USA did not want my work [running the state] to continue or was unwilling to acknowledge the developments I have ensured for Bangladesh.

"This is what I feel. At a certain point, terrorism became a problem for all nations, and Bangladesh effectively controlled it. Subsequently, the law enforcement forces worked diligently to maintain that control."

Yalda Hakim mentioned that before the sanctions, gunfights resulted in 466 deaths in 2018, followed by 388 deaths in 2019 and 188 deaths in 2020. However, after the ban, the number of deaths dropped significantly to 15.

Responding to this, Sheikh Hasina questioned the accuracy and authenticity of the mentioned data. She said in most cases, law enforcement agencies were not responsible for these deaths. 

She emphasised the need for evidence and offered to investigate if provided with relevant information.

In a documentary produced by Deutsche Welle, two individuals from RAB leaked confidential information, alleging that orders for these killings had come from the highest level of the government.

When asked about this, Hasina said she did not know how those individuals acquired such information. She drew attention to the ongoing incidents of multiple murders in the USA, occurring almost daily and affecting schools, shopping malls, restaurants, and even targeting students and the general population. 

She suggested that the USA should focus more on their own situation and protect the lives of their citizens. Hasina reiterated her request for proof regarding the allegations made against her government, which had not been provided.

The premier said, "I think sanctions and counter-sanctions are like a game. It is still not clear to me why they [USA] had imposed the ban.''

She also mentioned one of the Bangabandhu killers seeking refuge in the US saying her repeated requests for extradition had been rebuffed. 

In a speech delivered in the Bangladesh Parliament in mid-April, the premier claimed that the USA aimed to change the power structure in Bangladesh. 

When asked for evidence to support this statement, Hasina questioned the reasons behind the sanctions on RAB. She said while the law enforcement agencies were actively countering terrorism and taking action against human rights violators, it appeared that the USA had sided with the violators rather than the victims.

When informed about the concerns expressed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations, Hasina acknowledged that these organisations had issued statements but contested their ability to provide proof. 

"I don't know what international game is currently being played," she added.

In response to Yalda Hakim's question about the motivations [of the USA] to target her, Hasina revealed that her father had been killed by conspirators. 

These individuals, who were responsible for the murder of her family members, including her 10-year-old brother, did not want anyone from her family to come to power.

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