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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 18:54 GMT
Bangladesh in foreigners warning
By Waliur Rahman
BBC News, Dhaka

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
The prime minister said 'terrorist acts' would not be tolerated
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has warned foreign countries and donor agencies not to interfere in the country's internal affairs.

In a speech to parliament, she said she would not entertain any dictate from them and would run the country according to the laws of the land.

She also spoke about Islamic militant groups in the country.

Several countries say they are concerned over human rights abuses and the rise of radical Islam.

Government 'unhappy'

In her long and strongly-worded speech, the prime minister attacked opposition parties and foreigners alike.

She said she had witnessed a trend, with opposition parties always asking for intervention from foreigners in domestic matters.

"I would like to remind foreigners that Bangladesh has its own constitution and laws. This country will not run on any dictate or take orders from foreigners," she said, to cheers from government MPs.

Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh opposition leader
The opposition says it will carry on boycotting parliament

The speech was a clear signal that the government is unhappy over recent statements from the country's aid donors.

Several countries have publicly expressed concern over recent attacks on opposition parties, the rise of radical Islamic groups and what they see as Bangladesh's poor human rights record.

They have accused the government of not doing enough to deal with the situation, creating an atmosphere of impunity for offenders.

Social discipline

Mrs Zia was sharply critical of the country's media for what she said was their "lack of objectivity".

She said her government had ensured press freedom and, in return, she was appealing to the media not to tell lies.

She urged the opposition Awami League not to call frequent general strikes and urged them to end their boycott of parliament, so they could work with her government to alleviate poverty.

The question here is not of extremism or fundamentalism - the government will take action against whoever is responsible for terrorism and disturbing social peace and stability
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia

"Otherwise they can stay abroad - since they love to stay abroad - and make complaints to foreigners," she said.

The prime minister also referred to recent arrests of suspected Islamic militants in Bangladesh.

She said no-one would be allowed to do anything "adverse" to social discipline under the cover of religion, politics or any particular ideology.

Ms Zia said that recent explosions at social and religious functions, as well as in the offices of some aid agencies, were "terrorist" acts, for which the government had arrested a number of suspects.

A spokesman for the opposition Awami League, Abdul Hamid, denied the allegations made against his party by the prime minister.

He said his party had no choice but to pursue a parliamentary boycott because the Awami League was not allowed to speak in the house about issues of national interest.

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