'BNP is anti-people, anti-state': Bangladesh Information Minister Muhammad Hasan Mahmud

He wants the US to impose sanctions on BNP leaders opposing the polls

39-Muhammad-Hasan-Mahmud Muhammad Hasan Mahmud | Mandira Nayar

Interview/ Muhammad Hasan Mahmud, minister of information, Bangladesh

Holidays are a luxury for Muhammad Hasan Mahmud, minister of information, Bangladesh. It is a Saturday morning, and Mahmud has his diary full as he gears up for the parliamentary elections. He is fighting once again from his constituency, Chittagong-7. Mahmud, who also serves as the joint secretary of the ruling Awami League, spoke to THE WEEK about the key issues in the elections and the growth in India-Bangladesh ties. Excerpts:

Q/ What are the issues the elections are being fought on?

A/ We believe that the people will vote for the Awami League. The BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) understood this, which is why it is boycotting the elections. People will vote in favour of development, in favour of prosperity, and what has been done under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Q/ The BNP alleges that the polls are not free and fair.

A/ The elections will be completely free, fair and transparent. The participation of a particular party is not important. It is more important that there is participation of the voters. The BNP alliance boycotted the city corporation elections, still more than 50 per cent of the voters cast their votes. In the upcoming elections, in each constituency, there are on an average seven candidates. This election will see heavy participation of people.

The Election Commission has changed almost all senior officials, including some district commissioners, deputy commissioners and superintendents of police. Ministers are also given notice by the Commission for violating election rules. It is determined to hold free, fair and transparent elections.

Q/ The US says that it will no longer issue visas to anyone who goes against Bangladesh's democratic credentials. The issue came up even at the recent 2+2 dialogue with India.

A/ I hope that the US will impose visa sanctions on those who oppose free, fair and transparent elections―on BNP leaders, who are openly declaring that they will resist the election, thereby hindering the democratic process. They are asking their supporters to burn vehicles and people. This is not a democratic action, this is anti-state and anti-people. I hope America would impose visa sanctions on BNP leaders.

Q/ Under Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, India-Bangladesh ties are scaling new heights. What next in bilateral relations?

A/ We have excellent relationship all along with India. It has scaled new heights under the leadership of Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi. We cooperate on multiple fronts. Just 14 years ago, if anybody would speak about transit, people in our country would consider that to be anti-state. Now transit is a reality. People have understood transit is beneficial for the country and the region. Just 15 years ago, it was unthinkable that electricity would be produced in India and would be supplied to Bangladesh. But this is the reality now. Bangladesh has also offered India the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports.