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Bangla won’t be terror haven: Hasina

Dhaka, Dec. 31 (Agencies): Sheikh Hasina has marked her landslide victory by reassuring India and her arch rival, asserting that Bangladesh’s soil would not be allowed to be used by terrorists and offering to share power with Khaleda Zia.

“The Bangladeshi soil will never be used to carry out any terrorist act against our neighbours,” Hasina, whose grand alliance bagged 262 seats in the 300-member parliament, said in her first post-victory media conference.

Her remarks came in response to a question about New Delhi’s assertions in the past that the Bangladeshi territory was being used for carrying out terrorist attacks on India.

“When we were in power, we took a strong position on this (terrorism) and we will do that in the future. I have always maintained that we want peaceful relations with our neighbours,” Hasina said.

Hasina emulated President-elect Barack Obama by saying that she was ready to offer senior parliamentary posts to Khaleda and her party, although the Opposition leader had earlier rejected the results of the election.

Democrat Obama had reached across the aisle and retained Republican defence secretary Robert Gates in his cabinet.

Proposing the formation of a South Asian task force to fight terrorism in the region, Hasina said: “I want continued improved relations with neighbours.

“It is crucial to combat terrorism and (carry out) development of the region. The (proposed) task force could end the mutual blamegaming (on terrorism issue) between the countries in our region,” she said.

A smiling and confident-sounding Hasina had urged Khaleda to accept the results, adding she wanted her government to work with all sides to establish a new political culture in Bangladesh.

“As winners, we have to deal with everything with a sense of forgiveness and accommodation instead of vengeance, to take the country forward,” said the bespectacled Hasina, 61, who wore a green- and gold-bordered sari and arrived 50 minutes late. “(Khaleda) should accept the people’s verdict. I am ready to work with everyone,” Hasina said.

She said she was prepared to offer Opposition members parliamentary and ministerial posts if they were willing to cooperate with the government.

Despite the lopsided margin, one monitoring group after another has said the poll appeared largely fair. One of the latest such endorsements came from the EU Observation Mission.

Its chief observer, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, also told reporters today the BNP “complained about irregularities in 224 polling stations while there are 45,000 (total) so the number of complaints are very insignificant”.

“We also want to strengthen democracy, but we first have to see if they want to persecute their opponents,” BNP secretary-general Khandaker Delwar Hossain said.

Bangladesh election winners or their supporters have frequently mistreated their opposite numbers in ways ranging from beatings to bringing dubious legal charges against them.

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