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SHEIKH HASINA: A Spirited Visionary Leader Shaping New Bangladesh

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Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, assumed the office on January 7, 2019 for the fourth time after her party Bangladesh Awami League-led grand alliance won the December 30, 2018 11th Parliamentary elections. She has earlier served as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 2014-18, 2009-2014, and from 1996- 2001 when her party acquired majority in the General Election held on June 12, 1996.

Before becoming a Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina played a crucial role in establishing democracy in the country when she won from three constituencies in the parliamentary election in 1986 and was elected leader of the opposition. Following the election of 1986, a constitutional process began in the country ending the martial law. She led the historic mass movement in 1990 that toppled the government of Ershad who resigned on December 6, 1990.

Following the election in 1991, Sheikh Hasina became leader of the opposition in the country’s 5th parliament. She steered all the political parties towards changing the presidential system of government into a parliamentary one. Sheikh Hasina initiated a mass movement against the voter-less election by BNP in 1996 and forced the government of Khaleda Zia to quit power on March 30, 1996. Sheikh Hasina is a staunch crusader against fundamentalism, militancy and terrorism.

Assuming the office on January 6 in 2009, her government enacted laws leading to constitute the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for the trial of crimes against humanity done during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. The tribunal began the investigation and prosecution of the suspected war criminals and a number of verdicts has been given and executed.

The eldest of five children of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina was born on 28 September 1947 at Tungipara in Gopalganj district. She graduated from the University of Dhaka in 1973. She was elected vice president of the Students Union of the Government Intermediate Girl’s College when she contested as a candidate from Students League. Later, she served as secretary and then as president of college unit of Student League.

She was also a member of Students League in Dhaka University and became the secretary of Rokeya Hall unit. She actively participated in all mass movements from her student life. Her father, Bangladesh’s independence hero, along with the members of his family was brutally assassinated on the fateful night of August 15, 1975. Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana were the only survivors as they were in West Germany at that time. Later, she went to the United Kingdom from where she started movement against the autocratic rule in 1980. Sheikh Hasina was unanimously elected as president of Bangladesh Awami League in 1981 in her absence while she was in forced exile. She finally returned home on May 17, 1981 ending her six years in exile. Sheikh Hasina faced the wrath of the rulers on her return as she launched movement to restore democracy in the country.

She was detained time and again, and at least 19 attempts have been made on her life so far. Notable attempts to assassinate Sheikh Hasina include firing by police on November 10, 1987 during a ‘gherao’ programme of the Secretariat.

Police opened fire targeting Sheikh Hasina and charged batons in front of Chittagong Court Building on January 24, 1988 during rule of president Ershad. At least 30 leaders and workers of Awami League were killed in that incident. Twice she was targeted with gunfire while delivering speech at Laldighi Maidan. Her car came under gunfire while returning from the public meeting at Laldighi Maidan.

Miscreants fired on September 11, 1991 while she was visiting a polling centre in the capital’s Kalabagan area. A series of gunshots hit her carriage at Ishwardi railway station while she was traveling by train in 1994. In 2000, two bombs weighing 76 kgs and 84 kgs were planted at Kotalipara helipad, and at her place for public meeting in a bid to kill her. She survived as the bombs were detected prior to her arrival.

The gravest attempt made on Sheikh Hasina’s life was on August 21, 2004. On the day, a dozen of Arges grenades were charged on her rally at Bangabandhu Avenue. Although Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped, her hearing capability was impaired as a consequence of the attack.

However, she continued her struggle and remained undaunted to ensure people’s right to food, vote and other fundamental rights ignoring numerous obstacles, including threat on her life. Under her leadership, people of Bangladesh achieved democracy and freedom of speech. Bangladesh earned the dignity of a lower middle-income country. The country achieved tremendous success in socioeconomic fronts during her tenure.

In 1996-2001 term, Sheikh Hasina’s government achieved laudable successes in many fields, the most significant being the 30-year Ganges Water Sharing Treaty with India; the Peace Accord on Chittagong Hill Tracts; construction of Bangabandhu Bridge; and ensuring food security.

She also introduced beneficial programme for farmers and social safety nets for the distressed, landless and deprived people. These include allowances for distressed women, widows, disabled and freedom fighters; Ashrayan for the homeless and “One house-One farm” scheme. During her term in 2009–13, Sheikh Hasina’s government’s achievements included increased power production capacity to 13,260 MW; GDP growth over 6%; elevation of 5 crore people to middleincome group; resolving maritime boundary dispute with Myanmar and India, digital centers at all union parisads; distribution of free text books among the students up to secondary level, distribution of agri-cards and scope to open bank accounts with Tk 10 only for farmers, slump in poverty level to 24.3 percent in 2013-14 which was 38.4 in 2006; and adoption of her peace model by UN resolution.

She continued her struggle and remained undaunted to ensure people’s right to food, vote and other fundamental rights ignoring numerous obstacles, including threat on her life. Under her leadership, people of Bangladesh achieved democracy and freedom of speech. Bangladesh earned the dignity of a lower middleincome country.

Since 2014, her government’s landmark achievements include the following: elevating the country to lower middle-income status, adoption of Land Boundary Agreement by Indian parliament resolving the 68 years long border dispute; raising per capita income to USD 1,602; decreasing poverty rate to 22.4 percent, raising forex reserve over USD 32 billion. Different reputed universities and institutions across the world conferred various degrees upon her for the outstanding contribution to peace building, upholding democracy and socio-economic development.

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