She gave the nation a new vision – Vision 2021, transforming Bangladesh into a middle-income country. She gave Bangladeshis the dream of Digital Bangladesh- an IT-based country. Four decades into independence, she has brought solace for 3 million martyrs and their families by initiating the much-awaited war crimes trial.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the country to witness the economy growing at a record pace. Her prudent leadership ensured the primary school enrolment rate reaching the highest it has ever been. Her visionary approaches to women empowerment earned her global acclamation. During her first tenure, she made the peace treaty – ending decades-long conflict in CHT. Most importantly, she is the custodian of the spirit of 1971-Liberation War of Bangladesh.
The daughter of assassinated parents – the sister of murdered brothers, she literally turned grief into the courage to lead the country. Following the assassination of most of her family members by a group of disgruntled army officers, she had to spend six years in exile. Her comeback, in 1981, meant the comeback of democracy, the farewell to unelected power and beginning of the national progress. She herself survived as many as 19 murder attempts including 2004-grenade attack by militants, backed by the then BNP led government.
Elected the Prime Minister for the fourth time in 2019, she is putting her best to build a poverty and hunger-free country as envisioned by her father –the father of the nation – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
A Born Leader
She was born in Tungipara of Gopalganj district on September 28, 1947 – the year marking the births of two countries – India and Pakistan. Bangladesh became a part of Pakistan. Her father spent most of the times organizing movements against the repressive regime of Pakistan. Sheikh Hasina as a student leader took part in pro-liberation movements. She actively participated in anti-Aiyub (the then President of Pakistan) movement in 1962.
As the Vice President of the students’ union at Eden College, she led a movement in demand of building Shaheed Minar (memorial for language martyrs). Badrunnessa and Eden Girls’ College was one college in those days. Her movement turned into a success. Language heroes sacrificed their lives in 1952 protesting Pakistan’s decision to wipe out Bangla as a state language. During the 1971-Liberation War of Bangladesh, her father Bangabandhu was arrested and landed in a Pakistani jail. Sheikh Hasina with her mother Begum Mujib, both confined to the house, played a vital strategic role in the war.
Champion of Change
On December 12, 2008 evening, Sheikh Hasina presented “the charter of change” – the election manifesto of Awami League which later became the unanimously accepted charter in the ninth parliamentary election. In the election, her party won 264 seats out of 300. The charter outlined the nation’s roadmap to become a middle-income country within 2021.
Under her leadership, the national GDP crossed 8% milestone. The present per capita income increased to 2064 USD. Poverty rate has been reduced by 20%. One crore people have been employed.
She herself is one of the top 100 women in the world. She works untiringly to transform the fate of the country’s women as well. Her remarkable contribution to women and girls education earned her ‘Tree of Peace’ award by UNESCO.
Her policies have turned around 20 million lives. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted her six-point resolution on poverty. In addition, many state-premiers and international organisations working on reducing poverty have come up with effusive praises for her.
During the first term, her government constructed Jamuna Multi-purpose bridge, 11th largest bridge of the world. In the wake of the devastating 1998-flood, her government supplied food to around 20 million helpless people. Some remarkable achievements also took place in that regime – gaining food security, 21st February (mother language day of Bangladesh) getting recognized as the International Mother Language Day.
For her contribution in expanding information technology, ensuring healthcare to the grassroots level, improvement of society’s distress people through safety net programme and success in poverty alleviation, she has been honored with ‘South-South Cooperation Visionary’ Award of United Nations.
For building a healthy future for her people and to set an example for the developing countries, Sheikh Hasina put her best to ensure a healthy mother and healthy child. This tireless effort came with achievement in 2011 as Bangladesh achieved the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by 50 percent well ahead of 2015. UNICEF awarded her with the Champion of Youth Development award 2019. During the Corona-crisis in Bangladesh, her leadership has been praised by world leaders and organizations.
The Pathfinder of Democracy
Sheikh Hasina led Bangladesh to the path to democracy. With her untiring struggle and dynamic leadership, she had been succeeded in her attempt to free the country from the deadly clutch of the military regime in 1990 through the all-party political movement.
Her party Awami League became the main opposition under her leadership through the 1991-national election. In 1996, her leadership led Awami League to secure a win in the national election
Black chapters again took over in 2001. BNP-Jamaat formed the government. It was in this tenure militants raise their ugly heads. Simultaneous bombing in all 64 districts of Bangladesh occurred on a single day, 17th August 2005. On January 11, 2007, the Awami League’s all-out movement, led by Sheikh Hasina, resulted in the cancellation of the election – an evil design of the incumbent BNP-Jamaat alliance to assume state power depriving people of their rights to the franchise. The state of emergency was announced. A military-backed caretaker government took over. Conspiracies went on to overthrow Sheikh Hasina from politics. She was arrested on July 16, 2007.
Amid public protest and mass signatures against her detention, she was released on parole on June 11, 2008. She went abroad for treatment and came back on December 4. Her party won the ninth parliamentary election.
Upon completion of successful five years, public faith in her Vision-2021 got her for two consecutive terms, in 2014 and 2018.
As for her noble cause, she has always been a target of militants and fundamentalists due to her anti-terrorism stance. Till date, she survived as many as 19 murder attempts – the fiercest one taking place on 21st June 2004. It appeared like a doom’s day at the capital’s Bangabandhu Avenue. Grenades were showered on a Sheikh Hasina-led anti-terrorism rally. Then came bullets. Party leaders, activists and supporters cordoned around Sheikh Hasina, the then leader of the opposition. At least 30 (thirty) of them died. In the aftermath, the area was left with sandals, fleshes and blood. Hasina herself suffered severe hearing complications.
Throughout her life, Sheikh Hasina has demonstrated a resilient endeavour to promote peace and disarmament within the communities and across the globe. Her government strongly believes in the centrality and legitimacy of the UN as the custodian of global peace, security and development. Her commitment to international peace is manifested through Bangladesh’s flagship UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) Resolution on ‘Culture of Peace and Non-Violence’. She has overseen the contribution of 128,133 peacekeepers in 54 peace missions of United Nation.
Earlier, in 1998, Sheikh Hasina persuaded India and Pakistan not to start nuclear-arm competition when both the nations tested explosions of nuclear bombs. In recognition of her contribution for the signing of the CHT Peace Treaty, UNESCO bestowed its Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize upon her. In 2013, she received the Rotary Peace Prize. On January 12, 2010, she was awarded the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize for her campaign for peace and development.
In 2016, UN WOMEN awarded her with Planet 50-50 Champion. For her unprecedented step to shelter more than 1 million Rohingyas has become an example of humanitarian leadership.
Custodian of the Spirit of 1971
Flag destroyers cannot be trusted with flags. But a previous government had given the war criminals of the Liberation War of 1971, the rights to put the national flag on their cars! The ‘Razakaars’ who assisted the West Pakistani Army to kill 3 million Bangladeshi people and rape 300,000 mothers and sisters, were awarded ministries to govern! Voted back to power for the second time, Sheikh Hasina, in 2009, set up the highly transparent, impartial and independent International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in line with her electoral promise to end the culture of impunity enjoyed by the war criminals. Some of the sentences have been carried out. Many of the war criminals are now facing the trial.
Protector of Our Nation’s Sovereignty
Thanks to her visionary diplomatic policies, the parliament of India has passed the historic Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh. This marked the end to four decades of old miseries of the enclave people. During her 2009-2013 tenure, Bangladesh won two maritime disputes with India and Myanmar. Bangladesh gained 19,467 square-kilometres out of total 25,602 square-kilometres disputed area with India in the Bay of Bengal.
Unyielding struggle and revolutionarily works of Sheikh Hasina for the betterment of mankind have made her a leader beyond the boundaries. Honors and awards continue to follow her. Now she has set her goal to uphold Bangladesh to the developed world. With her uncompromising stance towards the betterment of her men and her long journey in the country’s development, it is needless to say, only Sheikh Hasina holds the key to future Bangladesh.