Sheikh Hasina – The beacon of hope for distressed people of Bangladesh

 

People’s leader Sheikh Hasina was born in a remote village of Tungipara of Gopalganj district. She is the eldest among the five children of the architect of the independence and the father of the nation – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She earned her graduation from Dhaka University in 1973. 

With a grooming for politics by virtue of being a daughter of Bangabandhu, she had been actively involved in politics since her student life. She was elected vice-president of Eden College Students’ Union. In addition, she was a member of Dhaka University Rokeya Hall unit of Chhatra League. Imbued with the spirit of an Independent Bangladesh, she had actively participated in many mass movements of which 1969 mass uprising against the Pakistan regime is worthy to be mentioned.
Things fell apart on the night of August 15, 1975. It was the night that left the entire nation in a state of terrible shock as some anti-state elements shot down Bangabandhu along with nearly all his family members. Only Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana survived as they were in Brussels that time.
It was six years of agonizing wait of Sheikh Hasina that ended on May 17, 1981 when she returned to the country. She had already been elected as the president of Awami League. She won three seats in 1986 parliamentary election and got elected as the leader of the opposition. She led a movement in 1990 in demand of peaceful handover of state power under the acts of 51 and 56 of the constitution of Bangladesh. She became the leader of the opposition in 1991 general election. Her contribution was immense in the transition from presidential ruling period to the parliamentary system.
Under her leadership, Awami League won the national election held on June 12, 1996 and formed the government. Sheikh Hasina became the prime minister. It was during her tenure that Ganga water sharing deal with India and Chittagong Hill Tracts peace treaty were signed.
After the 2001 national election, the Awami League again became the main opposition party with its president Sheikh Hasina as the opposition leader in the parliament. She was arrested on July 16, 2007 during the tenure of the caretaker government led by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed. She stayed behind the bar before being released on parole on December 29, 2008. Her party enjoyed a landslide victory in the election held on December 29, 2008. Sheikh Hasina took the oath as the prime minister on January 6, 2009.

Life sketch of Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina assumed the office of the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for the third time earlier in this year.

Sheikh Hasina is the eldest of five children of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Begum
Fazilatunnessa Mujib. She was born on the 28th September in 1947 at Tungipara in Gopalganj district.

Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana were the only surviving family members as they were in Germany on the fateful night of August the 15th. Later, she went to the United Kingdom from where she started movement against the autocratic rule in 1980. Sheikh Hasina was unanimously elected President of Bangladesh Awami League in 1981 in her absence. She was then forced to live in exile in New Delhi. Ending her six-year exile life, she finally returned home on 17 May 1981.

Sheikh Hasina did her graduation from the University of Dhaka in 1973. She was elected Vice President of the Students’ Union of Government Intermediate Girls’ College. She was a member of the Students League of Dhaka University unit and Secretary of the Students League of Rokeya Hall unit. Sheikh Hasina actively participated in all the mass movements since her student life.
In the parliamentary election held in 1986, Sheikh Hasina was elected parliament member from three constituencies and was the Leader of the Opposition. She led the historic mass movement in 1990 and announced the constitutional formula for peaceful transfer of power through Articles 51 and 56 of the Constitution.

Following the election of 1991, Sheikh Hasina became the Leader of the Opposition in the country’s fifth parliament. She steered all the political parties in the parliament towards changing the Presidential system of government into the Parliamentary one.
Sheikh Hasina launched a vigorous movement for Non-party Caretaker Government system in 1994-96 to ensure free and fair polls.

Her movement culminated with the incorporation of the provision for Non-party Caretaker Government in the Constitution. In the parliamentary election held on the 12th June in
1996 under Caretaker Government, Bangladesh Awami League emerged as majority party. Following the election, she assumed the office of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on the 23rd June in 1996.

Sheikh Hasina ‘s government achieved commendable success in various socio-economic and political fields. The landmark successes included signing of the historic 30-year Ganges Water Sharing Treaty with India, signing of historic Peace Accord on Chittagong Hill Tracts, inauguration of the Bangabandhu Bridge on the river Jamuna, producing highest quantity of food grains and keeping prices of essentials within the purchasing capacity of the common people.
Sheikh Hasina devotes her life for the down-trodden and works for ameliorating of their condition. During her 1996-2001 tenure as Prime Minister, she introduced a number of innovative and pragmatic programmes for the welfare of farmers, and the distressed, landless and down-trodden people. These, among others, included: allowances for distressed women and widows; allowances for disabled and freedom fighters; setting up of Shanti Nibas or homes for elderly poor people; implementation of Ashrayan project to provide shelter to homeless people; implementation of ‘one house one farm’ project and establishment of Ideal village.
Sheikh Hasina is the Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister who had handed over power to the caretaker government after completion of 5-year tenure. The Awami League President stood beside her party leaders and workers, and general people who were subjected to widespread killing, torture and repression after 2001 general elections. She built a strong public opinion against terrorism and in favour of peace.

She survived several attempts on her life. The most grievous one was on the 21st August in 2004 when more than a dozen high-tech grenades rained on her public meeting at the Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. The well-orchestrated attack left 22 of her party leaders and workers dead and more than 500 others wounded. Sheikh Hasina herself received severe ear injuries in the attack.
Sheikh Hasina was arrested on the 16th July in 2007 on false and fictitious charges and sent to jail. The authorities were forced to free Sheikh Hasina on the 11th June in 2008 after nearly a year in confinement in the face of strong public opinion at home and abroad. During her tenure of 1996-2001, her visionary foreign policy and successful participation in various international forums brightened the image of the country abroad.
As an ardent advocate of peace, Sheikh Hasina played a commendable role in defusing tension between India and Pakistan following nuclear explosions by the two countries in 1998. She visited both India and Pakistan and could calm the explosive situation between the two neighbors that brightened the image of Bangladesh. Under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh was the first country in South Asia to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation of Swadhinata Stambha, a gigantic monument in memory of the liberation war, in March 1997 after 27 years of country’s independence. Palestinian President Yaseer Arafat, legendary leader of South Africa Nelson Mandela and former Turkish President Soleman Demiral attended the inaugural ceremony at the invitation of Sheikh Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina was conferred on honorary Doctor of Law degrees and numerous awards for her outstanding contributions to social work, peace, stability.
She was conferred on Degree of Doctor of Law by the Boston University of the USA on the 6th February in 1997.

Waseda University of Japan conferred her on Honorary Doctor of Law on the 4th July in 1997.
She was also conferred on the Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy in Liberal Arts by University of Abertay, Dundee of the United Kingdom on the 25th October in 1997.
Vishwa-Bharati University in West Bengal of India conferred her on Honorary Degree of Desikottama (Doctor of Literature, honoris causa) on the 28th January in 1999.
Sheikh Hasina was also conferred on the Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on the ground of her distinguished creative contributions to the service of society by the Australian National University on the 20th October in 1999 for her outstanding contribution towards peace and democracy.

The world famous Catholic University of Brussels conferred Honorary Doctorate Degree (Doctor honoris causa) on Sheikh Hasina on the 4th February in 2000 for her decisive role in establishing democracy, peace and protecting human rights. She has been conferred on Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the Bridgeport University, USA on the 5th September in 2000.
Dhaka University conferred on her honorary Doctor of Laws in December of 1999.Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agriculture University conferred her on the Doctor of Science
Degree on the 14th March in 2001 for her outstanding contribution to agriculture.
People’s University of Russia conferred her on Doctor of Science in 2005.
State University of Petersburg, Russia conferred Sheikh Hasina on Doctorate Degree on 24 November 2010 for her outstanding contribution to international humanitarian development. University of Dauphine in France conferred on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Diploma and Medal for her outstanding contribution to institutionalizing and strengthening democratic process and empowerment of women in the country on 25 May 2011.

Tripura University of Indian State of Tripura on 12 January 2012 conferred honorary D.Litt degree on
Sheikh Hasina in recognition of her role in establishing multicultural democracy and peace in Bangladesh and in the region, and for her statesmanship and visionary leadership.

Sheikh Hasina has been awarded UNESCO’s Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize for 1998 for her outstanding contribution in bringing peace through signing the CHT Peace Treaty ending the 25-year of ethnic conflict in Chittagong Hill Tracts with political courage and statesmanship.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received prestigious Pearl S Buck Award-1999 on the 9th April in 2000 in recognition of her vision, courage and achievements in political, economic and humanitarian fields by Randolph Macon Women’s College of USA.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization-FAO awarded the prestigious CERES’ Medal to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in recognition of her fight against hunger on the 2nd August in 1999.

The All India Peace Council awarded her ‘Mother Teresa Award’ in 1998. The Mahatma M K Gandhi Foundation in Oslo of Norway awarded Sheikh Hasina M K Gandhi Award-1998 for her contribution towards promotion of communal understanding, non-violent religious harmony and growth of democracy at the grassroots level in Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina was named Paul Haris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. She was also awarded the Medal of Distinction in 1996-97 and 1998-99, and Head of State Medal in 1996-97 by the International Association of Lions Clubs. Sheikh Hasina has been conferred on the prestigious Indira Gandhi Peace Award for 2009. She also received prestigious ‘ASOCIO (Asian-Oceania Computing Industry Organization) IT Award 2010’ for her contribution to advancing ICT sector in Bangladesh. She received Global Diversity Award on 27 January 201l from the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.
She was awarded the South-South Award by UN Economic Commission for Africa, Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and South South News, for her innovative idea to use the information and communication technology for progress of the health of women and children on 19 September 2011.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was given Bangla Academy Fellowship on 30 December 2011.
Sheikh Hasina is an avid reader of books, journals and periodicals on literature and, national and international issues. She has authored several books, including ‘Why are they Street Children, ‘The Origin of Autocracy’, ‘Miles to go’, ‘Elimination of Poverty and Some Thoughts’, ‘People and Democracy’, ‘My Dream My Struggle’ and ‘Development for the Masses’.
She performed the holy Hajj and Umrah several times.

Sheikh Hasina is the chairperson of ‘The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Trust.’ She is the life-member of Lions Club, Red Crescent Society and Bangladesh National Society for the Blind. Sheikh Hasina donated her eyes posthumously. She is also a life member of Dhaka University Alumni Association, Bangla Academy and a patron of Badrunnessa College Alumni Association.