Sheikh Hasina (Bengali:
শেখ হাসিনা Shekh Hasina)
(born September 28, 1947) is a Bangladeshi politician and current Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She has been the President of the Awami League, a major political party, since 1981. She is the eldest of five children ofSheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father (and first president) of Bangladesh and widow of a reputed nuclear scientist, M. A. Wazed Miah. Sheikh Hasina's party defeated the BNP-led Four-Party Alliance in the 2008 parliamentary elections, thus assuring her of the post of prime minister. Sheikh Hasina has once before held the office, from 1996 to 2001.
Sheikh Hasina's political career started as a student activist in Eden College in the 1960s. While at College, she was elected vice president of the College Students Union for the term 1966–67. Her opponent was the leftist student leader Matia Chowdhary, who much later joined Awami League and became a member of Hasina's cabinet.
At the University of Dhaka Sheikh Hasina was a member of the Chhatra League (the student wing of Awami League) and secretary of its Rokeya Hall unit. During the liberation war in 1971, Hasina, then a young mother, was held under house arrest with her mother, brothers, sister and her son. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned in West Pakistan during this period. After liberation, Hasina's involvement in politics was minimal as Sheikh Kamal, her brother, was touted as Mujib's successor.
Her political and personal destiny was irrevocably altered on the fateful night of August 15, 1975, when her father and almost her entire family, including her mother and three brothers, wasassassinated in a coup d'état by a section of disgruntled officers of the Bangladesh Army, some of whom were freedom fighters during 1971. Sheikh Hasina and her sister, Sheikh Rehana were on a goodwill tour of West Germany at that time. Hasina then sought refuge in United Kingdom and later, in India. She lived in exile in New Delhi, India, until May 17, 1981, when she was allowed to return to Bangladesh.
Movement against autocracy
While living in self-exile in India, Sheikh Hasina was elected President of Bangladesh Awami League in 1981. After she returned to the country, President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in yet another coup in May, 1981. The following year, General Hossain Mohammad Ershad captured power through a bloodless coup and declared martial law. In 1983, Hasina formed the 15-party alliance to launch a movement to oust him from power. She was in and out of detention throughout the 1980s. Her party, along with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Ziaur Rahman's widow Khaleda Zia, was instrumental in the movement against the military rule. In 1984, Hasina was put underhouse arrest in February and then again in November. In March 1985, she was put under house arrest for three months.
In 1990, Hasina's 8-party alliance was instrumental along with another BNP-led alliance in finally removing the Ershad regime.
Under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Awami League formed an alliance with Ershad's Jatiya Party in 1991.
Leader of the opposition
Sheikh Hasina and her party Awami League participated in the 1986 Parliamentary elections held under President Lieutenant-GeneralHossain Mohammad Ershad. She served as the leader of the opposition in 1986–1987. Hasina's decision to take part in the election has been criticized by her opponents, since the election was held under dictatorial rule. Her supporters maintain that she used the platform effectively to challenge Ershad's rule. The parliament was dissolved in December 1987. Being the leader of the opposition Sheikh Hasina always pushed the govt. to render accountability and transparency in all spehere of life cricizing the activities of the cabinet.
The first democratic elections were held in 1991 after a long period of military rule. A caretaker government, headed by Shahabuddin Ahmed, the outgoing chief justice, oversaw the elections. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party won the election, and Hasina's Awami League emerged as the largest opposition party. Hasina was defeated in the Dhaka constituency that she contested by Sadeque Hossain Khoka, later Mayor of Dhaka, but was elected to the Parliament from her home constituency in Gopalganj. Hasina accused the BNP of "nuanced rigging" in elections. Hasina, nevertheless, offered to resign as the party president but later stayed on at the request of party leaders. Khaleda Zia of the BNP took office as the first female Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Politics in Bangladesh took a decisive turn in 1994, after Magura by-elections. This election was held after the MP for that constituency, a member of Hasina's party, died. The Awami League was expected to win it back, but the seat was won by the BNP. The opposition parties accused the BNP of widespread rigging and the election commission of incompetence. The Awami League, with other opposition parties, demanded that the next general elections be held under a caretaker government, and that the notion of a caretaker government be incorporated in the constitution. The ruling party of Khaleda Zia, Hasina's arch rival, refused to give in to these demands.
Opposition parties launched an unprecedented campaign, calling strikes for weeks on end. The government accused them of destroying theeconomy while the opposition countered that BNP could solve this problem by acceding to their demands. In late 1995, the MPs of the Awami League and other parties lost their seats due to prolonged absence from parliament. The government declared elections on February 15, 1996, an election that was boycotted by all major parties except the ruling BNP. Hasina claimed that the election was a farce. The elected parliament, composed mostly of BNP members, finally amended the constitution to create provisions for a caretaker government. The next parliamentary elections were held under a caretaker government headed by Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman on June 30, 1996.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina making a joint statement to the press following their bilateral meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Dhaka during Clinton's visit to Bangladesh in March 2000.
The Awami League won 146 seats in the 1996 parliamentary elections. The support of theJatiya Party and a few independent candidates were enough for the 150+ seats needed for the required majority. Hasina took the oath as Prime minister of Bangladesh. She vowed to create a Government of National Unity. Though some smaller parties and a few individuals from BNP did join the government, the distance between the main two political parties (as well as their leaders) remained as large as ever. Hasina did manage to convince Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, who led the first caretaker government, to assume the post of President. This selection of an unbiased person as president was praised by her supporters as a proof of Hasina's goodwill to reach out to the opposition.
A major achievement of the new government was to strike a treaty between India and Bangladesh concerning the Farakka Barrage, a bone of contention between the two countries ever since it was built in the 1960s. According to the treaty, Bangladesh was to receive 33 thousand cubic feet per second (930 m³/s) of water. Hasina next went on to create a 'Peace Treaty' with the tribal rebels in the mountainous southeast of the country, thus seemingly solving a problem as old as Bangladesh itself. Though rebel activities have reduced greatly after the treaty, the region remains a hotbed of tension.
On the down side, the Awami League was criticized for harbouring gangsters turned politicians, most notably Jainal Hazari of Feni. Her government was also criticized for overusing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—the country's founding leader and also father to Sheikh Hasina—in the media and naming many major public institutions and constructions after him. The Awami League maintained that previous governments had tried to systematically eradicate Sheikh Mujib's legacy from the country and that the honour he was getting was long overdue. The BNP also accused the Awami League of politicising the administration and state-owned media. Her party was also accused of being lenient towards India, especially after a shootout between border forces of India and Bangladesh left 16 Indian and 3 Bangladeshi border guards dead.
During the last year of her rule, Transparency International declared Bangladesh to be the most corrupt country in the world. Though Bangladesh had almost always been in the bottom five, the last position created an uproar and was seen by many as a major failure by Hasina. Though Hasina was voted out of office later, Bangladesh remained at the last position for some more years. The opposition demanded that Hasina resign and declare early elections, but Hasina refused to do so. She became the first democratically elected prime minister to complete her term.
Justice Latifur Rahman became the head of the caretaker government. Awami League alleged that he was biased towards BNP after he transferred a large number of civil servants immediately after taking office. Later, Hasina would also accuse President Shahabuddin Ahmedand election official Abu Sayeed of biased actions.
Landslide defeat (Election 2001)
See also: 2004 Dhaka grenade attack
The Awami League succumbed to a landslide defeat in the 2001 Parliament elections. It won only 62 seats in the Parliament, while the 'Four Party Alliance' led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party won 234 seats, giving them a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Hasina herself was defeated in a constituency in Rangpur, which happened to contain her husband's hometown, but won in two other seats. Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League rejected the results, claiming that the election was rigged with the help of the President and the Caretaker government. However, the international community was largely satisfied with the elections and the 'Four Party Alliance' went on to form the government.
The Awami League has been irregular in attending the Parliament ever since. Hasina maintains that the ruling party didn't give the opposition enough time on the floor. In late 2003, the Awami League started its first major anti-government movement, culminating in the declaration by party general secretary Abdul Jolil that the government would fall before April 30, 2004. This failed to happen and was seen as a blow to the party and Hasina herself, who had implicitly supported Jalil.
In her second term in opposition, Hasina had to face assassination attempts against herself and killings of important party personnel. Ahsanullah Master, an MP, was killed in 2004. This was followed by a grenade attack on Hasina in Dhaka, resulting in the death of 21 party supporters, including party women's secretary Ivy Rahman. Finally, her ex finance minister Shah M S Kibria was killed in a grenade attack inSylhet.
In June 2005, the Awami League got a boost when AL-nominated incumbent mayor A.B.M. Mohiuddin Chowdhury won the important mayoralelection in Chittagong, the port city and second largest city in Bangladesh. This election was seen as a showdown between the opposition and the ruling party.
The planned January 22, 2007, elections were marred by controversy. The Awami League and its allies protested, saying that the elections would not be fair because of alleged bias by the caretaker government in favor of Khaleda Zia and the BNP. Hasina demanded that the head of the caretaker government, President Iajuddin Ahmed, step down and on January 3, 2007, she announced that the Awami League and its allies would boycott the elections. Later in the month a state of emergency was imposed, Ahmed stepped down, and the elections were postponed.
Extortion allegations and criminal charges
On April 9, 2007, it was announced that Bangladesh police were investigating extortion charges against Hasina. She was accused of forcing Bangladeshi businessman Tajul Islam Farooq to pay bribes before his company could build a power plant in 1998. Farooq said that he paid Hasina 30 million takas (US$441,000, or €383,211) to get his project approved by the government, according to a police official. On April 11, murder charges were filed against her by the police, alleging that she masterminded the killing of four supporters of a rival political party in October 2006. The four alleged victims were beaten to death during clashes between the Awami League and rival party activists. Deputy police commissioner, Shahidul Haq Bhuiyan said "detective branch police submitted the charge-sheet of the case to a Dhaka court today after carrying out investigations and taking evidence." She was visiting the United States at the time.
The interim administration subsequently took steps to prevent Hasina's return to Bangladesh, with The New Nation newspaper reporting on April 17 that airlines had been asked not to allow her to return to Dhaka. She had been planning to return on April 23. On April 18, the government barred Hasina from her planned return, saying that she had made provocative statements and that her return could cause disorder. This was described as a temporary measure. Hasina vowed to return home anyway, and on April 22, a warrant was issued by a Bangladeshi court for her arrest. On the same day, Hasina attempted to board a flight back to Bangladesh in London but was not allowed on the flight.[ Labelling the case against her as "totally false and fake", Hasina said that she wanted to defend herself against the charges in court. On April 23, the arrest warrant was suspended and on April 25 the ban on Hasina's entry into the country was dropped. With her rival Khaleda Zia being pressured to go into exile at the same time, the government's actions against Hasina appeared to be an attempt to restructure the political system rather than an attempt to support her rival.
After spending 51 days in the United States and the UK, at 4:45 p.m. on 7 May 2007 Sheikh Hasina arrived at Airport in Dhaka, where she was greeted by a jubilant crowd of several thousands. At the airport Hasina told reporters that it was a mistake for the government to stop her from returning and that she hoped it would not make a bigger mistake", while acknowledging that its reversal was a positive gesture
July 2007 arrest
On July 16, 2007, Hasina was arrested by state police at her home and taken before a local court in Dhaka. She was accused of extortion and denied bail on the same day, and was held in a building converted into a jail on the premises of the National Parliament. According to the Awami League, the arrest was politically motivated. On July 17, the Anti-Corruption Commission sent a notice to Hasina, along with Zia, requesting that details of her assets be submitted to the Commission within one week. Hasina's son Sajeeb Wazed Joy stated that the caretaker government were going beyond their limits, saying he did not plan to return to Bangladesh immediately but would try to organize worldwide protest. The arrest was widely seen as move by the military-backed interim government to force Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh into political exile. Earlier attempts had been made to bar her from coming back to Bangladesh. United Kingdom MPs condemned the arrest. On July 30, the Dhaka High Court suspended the extortion trial of her and ordered her release on bail. On September 2, an additional case was filed against Hasina by the Anti-Corruption Commission regarding the awarding of a contract for the construction of a power plant in 1997, for which she allegedly took a bribe of 30 million takas and kept the contract from going to the lowest bidder; six others were also accused of involvement. This coincided with a case filed against Zia on the same day. On January 13, 2008, she was indicted by a special court along with two of her relatives, her sister Sheikh Rehana and her cousin Sheikh Selim, on extortion charges. On February 6, however, the High Court stopped the trial, ruling that she could not be prosecuted under emergency laws for alleged crimes committed prior to the imposition of the state of emergency. On June 11, 2008, Hasina was released on parole for medical reasons and the next day she flew to the United States to be treated for hearing impairment, eye problems and high blood pressure. Prof. Syed Modasser Ali, her personal physician, threatened to sue the caretaker government over negligence regarding Hasina's treatment during her detention.
Landslide victory (Election 2008)
Main article: Bangladeshi general election, 2008
Sheikh Hasina with David Cameron in London
On November 6, 2008, Hasina returned to Bangladesh to lead her party in general elections scheduled for December 29, 2008. On December 11, 2008 Sheikh Hasina announced her party's election manifesto during a news conference. In her election manifesto she vowed to build a "Digital Bangladesh" by 2021. Sheikh Hasina's Awami league won the elections on 29 December 2008 with an overwhelming majority. Sheikh Hasina's party defeated Begum Khaleda Zia's BNP in the 2008 Parliamentary Elections. Her party achieved a landslide victory reminiscent of the 1971 elections of Pakistan. Under her leadership, the party has achieved a supermajority in parliament, controlling 230 seats out of 299. She was sworn into office as the Prime Minister for the second time on 6 January 2009. The Prime Minister is the most powerful executive position in Bangladesh, although technically of lower seniority compared to the office of President. Begum Zia, however, rejected the results of the election, sarcastically thanking the Chief Election Commissioner "for stage-managing the parliamentary election" in a statement. But, according to the views expressed by foreign and local election observers, the general elections were free, fair and credible.