Sheikh Hasina has been leading Bangladesh for the last 12 years as the Prime Minister. Over the years, she has gained lasting fame as a champion of peace, development and democracy. She is one of the most remarkable political leaders in Bangladesh history. Now she has reached the height of a world statesman. A visionary political leader, she has greatly influenced the course of politics in Bangladesh and brought successful legislative reform to state and government. She is by nature very focused and determined, and always ready to fight against odds.
Her inherent vitality, energy, magnetic personality, and high ideals have won her the loyalty of millions of people and political supporters. Historians will agree that, as a spokesperson for humanity, she has always stood for integrity, purity of purpose, and responsibility in severe world crises. Her proactive role in giving shelter to the Rohingya refugees and in upholding the Palestine cause bears ample testimony to this. She is so honest that not even her attachment to her party, family and friends can turn her aside from what she thinks is right.
Under her able leadership, Bangladesh is a modern nation today. During the twelve years, she has been in the driving seat; there has been spectacular progress in all areas of life in the country. The power and petroleum sectors have grown rapidly. Development in the communication sector is amazing – good roads and bridges have brought distant parts of the country much closer. The huge expansion of transportation facilities has greatly reduced travel time. The growth of urbanization is also very impressive. The Upazila and district towns are now buzzing with activity. Housing for the poor and low-income people has expanded phenomenally. The country has attained self-sufficiency in food production and the endemic hunger crippling rural life in different areas has been successfully obliterated.
The mechanization of agriculture has revolutionized our agrarian economy, and rural life is so vibrant now. Changes in the social sectors are unprecedented. Primary health care is readily available even in the remotest parts of the country, and through systematic interventions life expectancy has steadily increased in Bangladesh. Access to education at both primary and secondary levels has significantly improved. The dropout rates are much less than before, and girls are getting educated in far greater numbers. Noticeable advance in women’s empowerment has given them a stronger voice in family and society. Women’s increased participation in the administration and their rise to key positions both at the field and central levels is a great stimulus to their development.
The eldest of five children of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Begum Fazilatunnesa. Sheikh Hasina was born on September 28th, 1947 at Tungipara of Gopalganj district. She spent her childhood in the village where she was born. In 1954, when Bangabandhu was elected to Parliament, the family moved to Dhaka. She had good political training at home, and that was enriched by her participation in the national movements rocking the 1960s. As a student, she actively took part in the six-point movement of 1966, which snowballed into the great people’s upsurge in 1969 and led to the overthrow of President Ayub Khan. In 1968 she was married to Dr. Wazed Miah who later became a prominent nuclear scientist in South Asia.
During the liberation war, Sheikh Hasina and her family were interned at a house in Dhaka. On July 27, 1971, her first child Sajeeb Wazed was born. Her second child Saima Wazed Hussain was born on December 9, 1972.
In 1975, her peaceful family life underwent a tumultuous change. On August 15th, 1975, Bangabandhu and most of his family members had to embrace martyrdom as a result of sinister national and international conspiracies. At that time, Sheikh Hasina was in Germany. She along with her sister Sheikh Rehana was offered political asylum in India, where she stayed till 1981. During that time, she was elected President of the Bangladesh Awami League in her absence. She returned home on May 17th, 1981.
In 1996, 20 years past the assassination of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina led Awami League to power and became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She was elected as a member of parliament from the Tungipara-Kutalipara constituency of Gopalganj. As the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, she made possible a paradigm shift, towards pro-people and pro-active good governance. Under her leadership, Bangladesh graduated to a middle-income country in March 2018. Her path for creating an inclusive, vibrant Bangladesh free from all kinds of exploitation and disparity was not easy.
It was a path strewn with adversities and challenges. If there is one constant trait of Sheikh Hasina that has pulled her through this painful and hazardous journey, it is her unwavering courage and determination to stand up to grave adversities and brave them. With her rare gift for thinking out of the box, she has reframed the conventional definition of governance and has been able to garner massive public support for her comprehensive agenda that best suits the needs of Bangladesh. She has rightly identified the dreams and aspirations of the people of Bangladesh and has been single-mindedly taking them to fruition. Her focus on development, eye for detail and efforts to bring a qualitative difference in the lives of the poorest of the poor are leading her from strength to strength.
Her interaction with the world leaders has put Bangladesh on a high pedestal on the world map. Bangladesh has won the confidence of foreign investors who now consider investing in Bangladesh very rewarding. Currently, a large number of multinational companies are working in Bangladesh, generating numerous jobs and disseminating state-of-the-art technology here.
Under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, Bangladesh is now globally considered a ‘development miracle’. Bangladesh’s socio-economic development is a global role-model. According to Professor Kausik Basu of Cornell University, Bangladesh is ‘one of Asia’s remarkable and unexpected success stories.’
Sheikh Hasina has been honored with various honorary degrees, accolades and awards in recognition of her leadership excellence. Her most recent initiative to provide humanitarian support to the persecuted Rohingyas drew accolades from global leaders, institutions and personalities.
The British electronic media ‘Channel 4’ has designated her as ‘Mother of Humanity’ which brightened the image of our country. In 2010, she received the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ award in recognition of Bangladesh’s success in reducing infant and child mortality. She was accorded the ‘Achievement in Fighting Poverty’ award for achieving stunning success in poverty alleviation.
In 2015, she was bestowed with the UN’s highest environmental award ‘Champions of the Earth’ in recognition of her farsighted leadership in addressing the adverse effects and challenges of climate change. A couple of years ago, an Honorary Doctor of Literature degree was conferred on her by the Kazi Nazrul Islam University of West Bengal, India for her outstanding contribution to democracy, building a society free from exploitation and discrimination, women’s empowerment, poverty alleviation and bringing about change in the living standard of common people.
Sheikh Hasina lives a remarkably disciplined life, and she expects the same sense of discipline from her team. Her diligence is a source of inspiration for her colleagues. Her love for technology is evident in the Government’s visionary programs such as Digital Bangladesh. Currently, almost all governmental organizations and officials are actively engaging with the citizens through the use of technological innovations and social media platforms.
Bangladesh is making a rapid headway under the charismatic leadership of Sheikh Hasina. She is one of Bangladesh’s most dynamic and successful prime ministers and one of its finest statesmen. The people of Bangladesh love her very much. She is a worthy successor of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The writer is a former secretary.
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