“Like Father like Daughter”
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman devoted his life to making one dream come true: establish a democratic, peaceful and disparity-free society called “Sonar Bangla”. Braving myriad hurdles, he was striving to take the nation to that promised land.
But the dream stopped dead in its tracks as he along with almost his entire family was brutally murdered on August 15, 1975, barely three and a half years after he shepherded the nation to liberation.
Sheikh Hasina, who along with her sister Sheikh Rehana, was abroad when the tragedy struck, took it upon herself to revive the Sonar Bangla dream and work towards that, keeping personal grief to her chest.
Fast forward to the present, she is leading the country quite deftly towards prosperity.
Once dubbed as a “bottomless basket” by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Bangladesh is now among the most vibrant economies in the world. It is now considered a “role model” for the strides it made in various sectors including education, health, agriculture, and empowerment of women.
And for that to happen, she was unwavering in the face of numerous odds.
Of all she has done, infrastructure development might be one of her brightest legacies.
Aware of the challenges of globalisation in the 21st century, she placed a roadmap in her party’s manifesto “Charter for Change – Vision 2021” before the 2008 election. After having made good on many of her pledges from Vision-2021, she placed in 2014 “Vision 2041” to help Bangladesh graduate to a developed country.
The longest-serving prime minister of Bangladesh, Hasina turns 75 today.
The eldest among the five children of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, she was born at Tungipara in Gopalganj on September 28 in 1947.
She spent her childhood at Tungipara and started her schooling there. When Bangabandhu was elected a legislator, his family moved to Dhaka in 1954.
Hasina got into student politics while in college and was elected the vice-president of the students’ union at Government Intermediate College (now Begum Badrunnesa Government Girls’ College) for the 1966-67 term.
As a student leader, she took part in the Six-Point Movement of 1966 and the student movement of 1969, which saw off the Ayub Khan regime .
In 1968, Hasina got married to nuclear scientist Dr Wazed Miah.
She and her younger sister Rehana survived the August 15 bloodbath as they were in the then West Germany.
After a long exile, she returned to the country from India in 1981.
Since then, she has survived at least 19 attempts on her life, the worst being on August 21, 2004, when grenades were hurled at an Awami League rally.
In 1981, while in exile in India, Hasina was elected the president of the Awami League, one of the oldest political parties in the country. She has been leading the AL since then and has taken it to power four times.
During her term as head of the government, Hasina initiated war crimes trials, setting up two special tribunals. Several notorious war criminals were executed after completion of the trial proceedings. Also, under her watch, the trial of Bangabandhu murder case was completed after the scrapping of the infamous indemnity ordinance.
Since being elected the prime minister in 2009, Hasina has indeed been steering the country towards development.
However, like any other leader, Hasina has her share of controversies. There are allegations that under her tenure the country has witnessed some backsliding with regard to public trust in the electoral system and the rule of law; it has also seen weakening of institutions, shrinking of space for media and freedom of expression. And a functional parliament remains a far cry.
Prime minister for three times on the trot and only two years away from the next general election, Hasina now faces a stiff challenge: a seal of people’s approval.
Only a free and fair election can help ensure that development and democracy go hand in hand.