Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday thanked India for its support during the liberation war against Pakistan in 1971 and providing “shelter” to her family in 1975 when many of her family members were killed in 1975.
Sheikh Hasina's message to India comes as Bangladeshis begin voting in the general elections in which the Prime Minister is expected to win a fourth consecutive term after the main opposition party refused to participate, raising questions about the legitimacy of the elections.
“Welcome. We are very lucky… India is our trusted friend. During the 1971 liberation war, they supported us… and after 1975, when we lost our entire family… they gave us shelter. So, best wishes to the people of India,” Hasina told reporters. India”. Live updates on general elections in Bangladesh
The Indo-Pakistani War began against a backdrop of tensions between Pakistan (also known as West Pakistan) and the Bengali majority in East Pakistan, which was closer to India at the time. On March 25, 1971, the Pakistani Army, under the command of Lieutenant General Tikka Khan, who later became Pakistan's first military commander, launched Operation Searchlight to suppress the insurgency in East Pakistan. The Pakistani army reportedly committed serious human rights violations during this operation.
While the Indian Air Force responded with initial retaliatory strikes the same night, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a “full-scale” invasion of Pakistan. Thus the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 officially began. The war ended in less than two weeks on 16 December 1971, with the Commander of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Lt. Gen. J. S. Aurora, appointing the Commander of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. Pakistan Army Lieutenant General AK Niazi signs the surrender document. East Pakistan turned into Bangladesh, with Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman becoming its first president in January 1972, as well as its second prime minister in 1974. Mujib, who was assassinated in 1975, is Sheikh Hasina's father.
Polling stations in Bangladesh opened at 8 a.m. local time after a month-long campaign that saw daily street protests, the jailing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus and viral videos of ruling party leaders urging voters to cast their ballots or risk losing government benefits.
With most of Hasina's rivals behind bars, voter turnout is expected to decline, but will not affect the 76-year-old politician's re-election. Hasina has overseen one of the world's fastest-growing economies and lifted millions out of poverty as part of her development agenda — achievements often overshadowed by her turn to authoritarianism.
Election officials are scheduled to begin counting votes after polls close at 4 p.m., and results are scheduled to appear late Sunday or early Monday. About 120 million people are entitled to vote for 300 of the 350 seats in Parliament.
In recent weeks, prominent leaders from Hasina's Awami League party have appeared in social media videos telling voters that they risk losing their benefits if they do not participate in the elections. The Election Commission has sent notice to at least one of the politicians.
The main Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the national elections in response to Hasina's refusal to step down and allow an interim government to hold the elections. The dispute led to street battles between the opposition group, security forces and Awami League supporters.
(With inputs from agencies)
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