Sheikh Hasina- Prime Minister of Bangladesh and daughter of Independent Bangladesh’s first President and Father of the Bengali Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in Tungipara, East Pakistan on 28 September 1947, writes Md. Arafat Rahman.
Her mother was Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib. She was active in the student politics of Eden Girls’ College, Dhaka. She is the longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of Bangladesh.
Her political career has spanned more than four decades. She previously served as Opposition Leader from 1986 to 1990, and 1991 to 1995, then as Prime Minister from 1996 to 2001. She has been leading the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) since 1981. In 2008, she returned as Prime Minister with a landslide victory. In January 2014, she became Prime Minister for a third term in and won a fourth term in December 2018.
Hasina is considered one of the most powerful women in the world, ranking 26th on Forbes’ list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2018 and 30th in 2017. She has also made a list of “top 100 Global Thinkers” of the present decade. Hasina is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former female presidents and prime ministers. Sheikh Hasina was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World of 2018.
Hasina married M. A. Wazed Miah in 1968. Her husband died on 9 May 2009. She has one son, Sajeeb Wazed, and one daughter, Saima Wazed. Hasina’s only living sibling is Sheikh Rehana who is also a Bangladesh Awami League politician. Hasina was not in Bangladesh when her father, and most of her family, were assassinated on 15 August 1975 during a military coup by members of the Bangladesh Army. She was in West Germany where her husband, M. A. Wazed Miah, was working as a nuclear physicist.
Recently I n the 75th Session of UN General Assembly she called for stronger international action to help Rohingya refugees to return to neighbouring Myanmar. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said “More than three years have elapsed. Regrettably, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated. The problem was created by Myanmar, and its solution must be found in Myanmar. I request the international community to play a more effective role for a solution to the crisis,”
Like many of her counterparts, Prime Minister Hasina outlined steps her Government has taken to address the crisis and mitigate its impacts. Although COVID-19 has impeded economic progress in Bangladesh, she said the authorities implemented initiatives which prioritized both lives and livelihoods, such as introducing some $13.25 billion in stimulus packages for industries, and expanding social safety nets.
Bangladesh Govt. readily arranged food and other assistance for people who are rendered jobless due to COVID-19. This arrangement has benefitted nearly 10 million families, provided scholarships to four million students and given cash incentives to five million people, including farmers, workers and labourers affected by the pandemic,” she said.
“To ensure healthcare of the common people, we are providing 30 types of medicines free of cost through 18,000 community clinics and union health centres,” she continued, noting that overall, the pandemic’s impact has been minimal due to the various interventions. Meanwhile, food production has been the top priority during the pandemic, she said. Special arrangements have been made to keep industries up and running, among other measures, all in compliance with health guidelines.
Prime Minister Hasina said COVID-19 has been a stark reminder “that our fates are interconnected and that no one is secured.” She expressed hope that any vaccine against the disease will be readily available to anyone, anywhere who needs it. Bangladesh could also contribute to the process, she added. “It is imperative to treat the vaccine as a ‘global public good.’ We need to ensure the timely availability of this vaccine to all countries at the same time,” she told world leaders.
The 30 June 1996 Bangladeshi general elections were held under a neutral caretaker government headed. AL won the largest number of seats. Hasina served her first term as Prime Minister (PM) of Bangladesh from 1996 to 2001. She became the first Bangladeshi PM since its independence to complete the entire term. She signed the 30-year water sharing treaty of the Ganges with India.
Her administration repealed the Indemnity Act, which protected the killers of Sheikh Muijib, her father and first President of Bangladesh. Her government opened the telecom industry, which till then was limited to government owned companies, to the private sector. In 1999 the government started the New Industrial Policy (NIP) which aimed to strengthen the private industry and encourage growth.
During her second term as leader of the opposition, political unrest and violence increased. MP Ahsanullah Master died after he was shot in May 2004. This was followed by a grenade attack on 21 August on an Awami League gathering in Dhaka, resulting in the death of 24 party supporters, including Ivy Rahman, party women’s secretary. Her Bangladesh Awami League and its Grand Alliance won the 2008 general election with a two-thirds majority numerically the party controlled 230 seats out of 299.
Sheikh Hasina secured a third successive term in office with her ruling Awami League and its Grand Alliance partners, winning the 11th general election by a landslide. With 267 seats under its belt this time, the ruling alliance surpassed its 2008 poll success – when it secured 263 parliamentary seats. Hasina won her third consecutive term, her fourth overall, when her Bangladesh Awami League won 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats.
Sheikh Hasina received various International Awards & Honours like Mother of humanity by Channel 4, Planet 50-50 champion by UN-Women, Agent of Change Award by Global Partnership Forum, One of the Time 100 in 2018, where she was praised for accepting Rohingya refugees, Degree of Doctor of Law by the Boston University on 6 February 1997, Honorary Doctor of Law by the Waseda University of Japan on 4 July 1997, Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy in Liberal Arts by the Abertay University on 25 October 1997.
The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize by the UNESCO for 1998, Mother Teresa Award by the All India Peace Council in 1998, M.K. Gandhi Award for 1998 by the Mahatma M K Gandhi Foundation of Oslo, Norway, Awarded Medal of Distinction in 1996-97 and 1998–99 and Head of State Medal in 1996-97 by the Lions Clubs International,Honorary Degree of ‘Desikottama’ (Doctor of Literature, honoris causa) by the Visva-Bharati University of West Bengal, India on 28 January 1999.
The Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization for 1999, Doctor of Law (honoris causa), by the Australian National University on 20 October 1999, Honorary Doctor of Law by the University of Dhaka on 18 December 1999, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by University of Bridgeport on 5 September 2000, The Pearl S. Buck Award by the Randolph College on 9 April 2000, Named Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation.
Indira Gandhi Prize for 2009, Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) by the Tripura University in January 2012, UNESCO Peace Tree award for her commitment to women’s empowerment and girl’s education in 2014, UN environment prize for leadership on climate change, Doctor of the University (Honorary) by the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University on 16 November 2015, and Doctor of Letters (Honorary) by the Kazi Nazrul University, West Bengal, India on 26 May 2018. In 2018 Hasina appears in the title role in a docudrama Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale, directed by Rezaur Rahman Khan Piplu.
(Md. Arafat Rahman is a columnist & Asst. Officer, Career & Professional Development Services Department, Southeast University).