Sheikh Hasina has successfully completed the second consecutive term of office as the prime minister and is optimistic about the third. It has set a new record in the history of the constitutional government in Bangladesh after the resurrection of democracy in December 1990. However, the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law which were driven to extinction after the 1975 August Tragedy, could not have a healthy revival in 1990s with BNP in the ascendency for, they failed to live up to the expectations of the 1990 Mass uprising. It is however none but Sheikh Hasina who supplemented the post 1990 democracy by ensuring good governance and development as she was voted to the position of trust for the first time in 1996. She succeeds not only in completing her terms as the premier but also in preparing grounds for the next general election to be held under the incumbent constitutional government. This has been a resounding achievement especially after the legacy of so-called Caretaker Governments, which had started assuming unlawful political ascendency over the country, proved abortive and met with popular rejection. Hasina could very well understand her people’s language and contrary to all apprehension, has organized the 30 December 2018 national election paving the way for people’s participation and political inclusiveness.
The success of Sheikh Hasina is nothing less than a miracle. She has developed the country almost from nothing. That the least developed country, Bangladesh is now a developing country is but Hasina’s contribution to development. Her first term of office as the Prime Minister (1996 to 2001) was a warm up phase after years of decay and deadlock caused by the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It, however, faltered as the BNP-Jamaat alliance took over and unleashed a reign of corruption, violence, extremism and religious militancy that lasted for the Begum’s full tenure (2001—2006). Sheikh Hasina once again appeared as the saviour of the country, came up with his party’s manifesto — the 23-Point Charter for Change—Vision 2021 and swept to landslide victory in the 9th Parliamentary Election on 29 December 2008. She took up the reins of office as premier for the second time and made the country rise like a phoenix from the ashes of ruination. The journey continued and is still continuing against all the odds.
The economy of Bangladesh today is booming! Recent statistics of HSBC Global Report say that Bangladesh is becoming the 26th largest economy in the world and will be followed by Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam and Malaysia. The country has been enlisted into what we now call the Next 11, i.e. the eleven countries-- South Korea, Mexico, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam ,which are ready to become the biggest economies in the 21st century world after the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries. As the second largest economic sector in the Subcontinent, Bangladesh is moving forward as the member of Commonwealth, D-8, and Organization for Economic Cooperation, SAARC, IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It is nothing but Sheikh Hasina’s leadership which has helped the country achieve these astonishing feats. She has shown us how we can venture into the Padma Bridge construction all by ourselves defying the opposition of the big powers. As a matter of fact, Sheikh Hasina has her own independent policy of development and the guts to walk away from those of the western masters.
One of the biggest successes of Sheikh Hasina and her Government is the bold move to bring the war criminals to trial. Those who have lost their loved ones at the War of Liberation in 1971 would realize the magnitude of the thing. They must have been happy to see the perpetrators of crimes against humanity stood trial after quite a long time. Many of the top brass were punished and the pro -liberation folks heaved a big sigh of relief. This was a very courageous decision on the part of the Government and the trial could be treated on an equal footing with the Nuremberg trials, Tokyo trials or Manila trials. This is a new history in the dispensation of justice in Bangladesh which proves crimes against humanity never go void.
Another thing the Hasina Government can be credited with is that it is fighting an uphill battle against religious militancy. It is one of the most serious problems besetting the world at the present time. People are dropping like flies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and other places in the hands of the militant forces. Unbridled sectarian violence has turned human habitations into death valleys. Bangladesh too was going to be infected by the militancy virus. The defeated forces of 1971 used religion to grab power, and thereby gave rise to militancy, which sometimes took on massive proportions. The terrible Ramna Batamul bombings on 14 April 2001, the heinous grenade attack on 21 August (2004), the series of bomb-blasts rocking the whole country on 17 August (2005), and the latest Gulshan Cafe standoff on 1 July 2016 herald the existence of religious militancy in our secular soil. And quite unfortunately for us, they were indulged by the power of the State. If these deadlier social evils had not been fought back in right earnest by Hasina Government, they would have, by now, risen to a point of no return. Hasina is taking a tough line on them and her anti-militancy role can provide a model that other Muslim countries can follow.
Women empowerment is another remarkable success of Sheikh Hasina Government. This is for the first time in post-independence Bangladesh that the largest numbers of women have been made to hold high offices. The Nobel laureate Amarta Sen affirms that Bangladesh is ahead of India by all indexes of gender equality and empowerment. The Government adopted a national policy on women empowerment, and tried to bring about a radical change in their social and legal status by implementing it.
Bangladesh under the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Hasina is playing a significant role in regional and global peacekeeping activities. Given its geographical location, it has an added importance in the contemporary geopolitical context. It has immense potential for contributing to Southeast Asian peace process and thereby to the global harmony. The founding father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, himself was a champion of peace and was awarded the Joliot Curie Prize in 1973. Sheikh Hasina, the heir to Bangabandhu’s blood and political ideology, too, during her first premiership in 1997 drew up the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and put an end to the decades-long insurgency between the so-called Shanti Bahini and government forces. Not only did this historic peace accord help restore national security, it paved the way for regional peace and harmony. Hasina also plays a major role in curbing the obnoxious growth of the Islamist militants, which poses the biggest threat to regional and global peace.
Sheikh Hasina is a visionary leader of 160 million people of Bangladesh. She has explored endless possibilities in her country and its people. She has come to realize that the prime concern of today’s world is not the size of a country but its population. The main reason for the development of India and China is their population. She knows it full well if we can turn our 160 million people into human resources, we won’t have to look back. The chief motto of her development policies is the human resource development.
Sheikh Hasina is, by all accounts, the uncrowned Queen of developing Bangladesh. Bangabandhu gave us independence. Hasina is giving us economic growth and all out development! Kissinger’s ‘bottomless basket’ is now filled to the brim. All our successes are but feathers in Hasina’s cap. She is the longest serving Prime Minister in Bangladesh and is still expected, by popular demand, to serve way longer. The country is thriving under her leadership and her strong leadership is needed to captain her party too. That Hasina wins means all developments continue to accelerate and that she loses means, once again, drops the era of stagnation. And hence, Sheikh Hasina’s leadership is essential for the country, the region and the world as well.
Dr. Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic university, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org