Sheikh Hasina Wazed, a Bangladeshi politician, was born on September 28, 1947. She has been the country’s Prime Minister since January 2009. From June 1996 until July 2001, she was the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She is Bangladesh’s longest-serving prime minister, having held the position for a total of almost 18 years. She is the World’s longest-serving female head of government. 

Sheikha Hasina Wazed ‘s Political Career

Hasina is the eldest of Bangladesh’s founding fathers and first president, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur  Rahman’s five. Her political career stretches back over four decades. She was formerly the head of the opposition from 1986 to 1990 and 1991 to 1995. Then the prime minister from 1996 to 2001. She has been the President of the Awami League (AL) since 1981. She was sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time in 2009, after winning a landslide victory in the 2008 general election. The BNP boycotted the election and international observers criticized it. She was re-elected for a third term in 2014. She was re-elected for a fourth term after an election marked by violence and denounced by the opposition as unfair (2018)

Hasina is regarded as one of the World’s most influential women. Forbes magazine’s list ranked her 39th on The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2020, 26th in 2018, and 30th in 2017. She also compiled a list of the current decade’s “top 100 Global Thinkers.” Hasina is a Council of Women World Leaders, a worldwide organization that brings together current and former female presidents and prime ministers. Time magazine’s 2018 listed Sheikh Hasina among the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Reporters Without Borders in 2021 labeled Sheikh Hasina a predator for restricting press freedom in Bangladesh since 2014.

Sheikha Hasina Wazed ‘s Early Life 

On September 28, 1947, Sheik Hasina was born in Tungipara, East Pakistan. She was born to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib. She has mentioned in numerous interviews that she grew up fearful due to her father’s political activities. In 1968, she married scientist M. A. Wazed Miah, whom her father had chosen. She had sought refuge with her grandmother during the height of violence during the 1970 Pakistani general election, as well as her father’s detention. She entered in the University of Dhaka’s student politics. 

Renegade Bangladesh Army troops murdered her father and most of her family when she was a child, on August 15, 1975, following a military coup d’état while she was out of the country. She worked as a nuclear physicist in West Germany with her spouse, M. A. Wazed Miah. After India granted her shelter, she relocated to New Delhi in late 1975. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, her son, attended Indian boarding schools. Hasina did not participate in politics during her tenure in India, but she made good friends with Suvra Mukherjee, the wife of future Indian President Pranab Mukherjee. 

Hasina was not allowed to return to Bangladesh until she was elected leader of the Awami League on  February 16, 1981, and arrived on May 17, 1981.

Wazed‘s Political Career in its Early Stages 

From 1981 through 1991, there was a movement against military authority. In 1981, Hasina was elected President of the Awami League. At the same time, she was living in exile in India. 

The AL has been labeled a “left-of-center” political party. 

Throughout the 1980s, Hasina was in and out of detention due to martial law. In February and November of 1984, police placed her under house arrest. She was under house arrest for another three months in March 1985. Together with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Khaleda Zia, her party worked to restore a democratically elected government, which they were able to do in 1991 after the BNP won a democratic election. 

Hasina and the AL ran in the general election of Bangladesh in 1986, which President Hussain Muhammad Ershad won. From 1986 to 1987, she was the head of the parliamentary opposition. In opposition to Ershad, she led an eight-party coalition. Her opponents questioned Hasina’s decision to participate in the election because they held the poll under martial law, and the other major opposition party boycotted it. On the other hand, her fans claimed that she effectively used the platform to oppose Ershad’s rule. In December 1987, Ershad dissolved Parliament after Hasina and her Awami League resigned in an attempt to force a new general election under a neutral government. Several individuals were slain in a significant rebellion in Dhaka in November and December 1987, including Hasina supporter Noor Hossain. 

Transition to Democracy and Opposition Leader 

After several years of autocratic rule, massive protests and strikes paralyzed the economy—government officers who failed to follow orders resigned. Instead of firing on protestors, members of the Bangladesh Rifles lay down their rifles. And the curfew was openly defied. Hasina and Khaleda Zia worked together to organize Ershad’s opposition. Ershad left the office in December 1990, when he resigned in favor of his vice president, Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, Chief Justice of the Bangladesh Supreme Court. Under the caretaker government led by Ahmed, a general election for the Parliament was held. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) scored a resounding win, led by Khaleda Zia. With Hasina’s Awami League emerging as the most potent opposition force. Hasina lost two and won one of the three constituencies. She offered her resignation as party president after accepting loss, but she continued at the request of party officials.

After the death of the MP, they held a by-election in Magura in 1994, and politics in Bangladesh took a significant turn. According to an impartial observer who witnessed the election, the Awami League anticipated reclaiming the seat, but the BNP candidate won through corruption and manipulation. Since 1994, Hasina has led the Bangladesh Awami League in a boycott of Parliament. Hasina and Zia’s relationship deteriorated as a result of this. 

Sheikha Hasina Wazed’s First Premiership 

From 1996 to 2001, Hasina was Bangladesh’s Prime Minister for the first time. She is the first Bangladeshi prime minister to serve a full five-year term since the country’s independence. Also, she signed the Ganges Water Treaty, which has governed the Ganges for 30 years. Her administration overturned the Indemnity Act, which gave the killers of Sheikh Mujib, Bangladesh’s first president, immunity from prosecution. Her government deregulated the telecom industry, previously restricted to government-owned businesses. The government launched the New Industrial Policy (NIP) in 1999 to strengthen the private sector and encourage growth. 

Despite receiving 40% of the popular vote (slightly less than the BNP’s 41%) in the 2001 general election, the AL received only 62 seats in Parliament, while the ‘Four Party Alliance’ led by the BNP received 234  seats, giving them a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Hasina ran in three constituencies, losing  Rangpur, her husband’s hometown, but winning in the other two. Hasina and the AL challenged the results. They claimed that they rigged the election with the help of the President and the caretaker administration. The international community mostly received the polls, and the ‘Four Party Alliance’ went on to form a government. 

Second Premiership 

At 10 Downing Street, Hasina met with British Prime Minister David Cameron (January 2011) 

On November 6, 2008, Hasina returned to Bangladesh to run in the 2008 general election, set for  December 29. She chose to run in the parliamentary election under the banner of the “Grand Alliance,”  with Hussain Muhammad Ershad’s Jatiya Party as its primary partner. During a press conference on  December 11, 2008, Hasina publicly revealed her party’s election program, promising to build a “Digital  Bangladesh” by 2021. 

They ousted many of Hasina’s party’s politicians who backed the previous caretaker government’s forced changes.. In 2009, she dealt with a substantial national crisis in the form of the Bangladesh Rifles  mutiny, which resulted in 75 deaths, including Bangladesh Army commanders, over a salary dispute.  

Some Bangladesh Army officers accused Hasina of the fatalities They claimed that she caused them by failing to bring in the army sooner. Parliament repealed the rule requiring non-party Caretaker governments to hold elections in 2011. During the 2012 Rakhine State riots, she took a hardline position and refused to admit Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. 

During her term, her government succeeded in establishing the International Crimes Tribunal to  investigate and prosecute suspects in the Bangladesh Genocide, carried out by the Pakistan Army and  their local collaborators, the Razakars, Al-Badr, and Al-Shams, during the Bangladesh Liberation War in  1971.

Third Term as Prime Minister 

In 2018, Hasina met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Sheikh Hasina and her ruling Awami League and its Grand Alliance partners won a landslide victory in  the 2014 general election, giving her a second consecutive term in government. The AL led the Grand  Alliance to win 267 seats, exceeding their previous best of 263 seats in 2008. Sheikh Hasina’s Awami  League has ruled Bangladesh since 2009, and she won 288 seats in this election. They accused one of the main opposition parties of utilizing filled vote boxes. The BNP and other major opposition parties  boycotted the election. 

Hasina backed calls to take down the Justice Statue in front of the Supreme Court. People interpreted it as the government caving in to the pressures of religious extremists. 

The Asian University for Women has Hasina as a supporter, chaired by Chancellor Cherie Blair, and includes Akie Abe, Japan’s First Lady, and Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General. 

The Premiership in the Fourth Time

Sheikha Hasina Wazed ‘s Awami League won 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats. This granted her a third consecutive term and fourth overall. Kamal Hossain, the leader of the main opposition alliance, called the vote “farcical” and rejected the results. Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations had accused the government of intimidating the opposition before the election. The New York Times editorial board portrayed the election as ridiculous. This noted that Hasina would have won without vote-rigging and questioned why she did so. 

The BNP, the primary opposition party that has been out of office for 12 years and boycotted the 2014  general election, did horribly in the polls. Since Bangladesh’s post-Ershad democracy restoration in 1991,  the party and its Jatiya Oikya Front alliance have been marginalized to the weakest opposition, winning only eight seats. 

Hasina gave the inaugural address at the Dak Bhaban, a new headquarters for the Bangladesh Post  Office, in May 2021. Hasina called for more expansion of the postal service in response to the COVID-19  pandemic in Bangladesh. 

Ongoing digital transformation of the service and the construction of cooling units in postal warehouses to deliver perishable products via mail are among the development measures highlighted in the speech. 

Hence, it will not be wrong to say that Sheikha Hasina Wazed emerged as a world leader who stood firm in the phase of adversities and made her mark in the world.

Authored by Afifa Maryam Siddiqui 

Edited by Yara Fakhoury

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