The prime minister of Bangladesh makes the case for her country’s controversial war crimes trials.
On this episode of The Frost Interview , Sir David Frost travels to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where he interviews the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina – just as he interviewed her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 41 years ago, shortly after he had led the country to independence.
The shadow of the 1971 war between the then West Pakistan and East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and India that led to independence still lingers over the country and its prime minister. “Miles after miles of human habitation were burned and women were raped, children were killed,” she says. “Everywhere there were dead bodies. I have seen it in my own eyes.”
Bangladesh puts the number of Bengalis killed during the nine month long war at three million. It is a contentious figure but when challenged about it, Sheikh Hasina insists it is accurate. “Every family they suffered. It’s absolutely correct, the number declared, it is absolutely correct.”
From the village of Tungipara, where she grew up, Sheikh Hasina reflects fondly on her childhood and shares stories of her protective grandmother. “I was not allowed to go to the school. Because I had to cross the canal by a wooden bridge, she was very much afraid that if I fall from this wooden bridge I will fall in the river.”
She also shares less pleasant memories and tells Sir David the harrowing story of the night of August 15, 1975, when army officers burst into her family’s home and assassinated her father and 17 other members of the family.
“These Bengali people, my father loved them so much. How could they kill him, how could they assassinate him?” she asks.
The war is particularly fresh in the minds of Bangladeshis as a result of war crimes trials that are currently causing controversy in the country.
Sheikh Hasina explains to Sir David why she believes it is important that local collaborators face punishment. From her grandparents’ house in Tungipara, she says: “They attacked this house and they burned it. My grandparents were alive. Those who lost their family members, it is their demand that these criminals should be punished.”
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