In the annals of global democratic leadership, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh stands as a towering figure, a beacon of progress, and an emblem of resilience. Her remarkable journey from the tumultuous political landscape of Bangladesh to the global stage is a testament to her unwavering commitment to democratic principles, social welfare, and economic development. As the leader of a nation with a rich history and diverse challenges, Sheikh Hasina has emerged as a symbol of progressive governance, navigating through adversity and leaving an indelible mark on the world.
The story of Sheikh Hasina’s leadership is intertwined with the legacy of her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu’s ideals of justice, equality, and sovereignty laid the foundation for an independent Bangladesh in 1971. However, his visionary leadership was tragically cut short by an assassination in 1975. The responsibility of upholding and advancing his ideals fell upon Sheikh Hasina’s shoulders.
After the tragic assassination of her parents in 1975, Sheikh Hasina faced numerous challenges in her attempts to return to Bangladesh. Despite her efforts, military leaders, including President Ziaur Rahman and President H.M. Ershad, denied her return. However, the persistent demand from the people led to her safe return in 1981. The journey back was marked by overwhelming support from the public, and Sheikh Hasina’s resilience ultimately paved the way for her significant political role in Bangladesh, culminating in her becoming the prime minister in 1996.
Still, Sheikh Hasina’s democratic journey has not been a smooth one. She faced several assassination attempts, including the notorious grenade attack on August 21, 2004, during a political rally in Dhaka. The attack claimed the lives of many, and Sheikh Hasina herself narrowly escaped death. Such acts of violence aimed at destabilizing the democratic process only strengthened her resolve to lead Bangladesh towards stability and prosperity.
In a dark episode in Bangladesh’s history, on January 11, 2011, a military coup led to Sheikh Hasina’s house arrest. The attempt to undermine democracy was a grave challenge, but Sheikh Hasina’s resilience and the people’s unwavering support eventually led to her release, marking a triumph for democratic values.
Sheikh Hasina’s leadership has been synonymous with unprecedented economic growth and social security in Bangladesh. Guided by a vision of inclusive development, her administration implemented comprehensive economic reforms that transformed Bangladesh into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
The ready-made garment sector, agricultural expansion, and IT industry have played pivotal roles in driving economic prosperity. Infrastructural development, including projects like the Padma Bridge, has enhanced connectivity, facilitating trade and contributing to the nation’s overall development. Sheikh Hasina’s vision for Bangladesh’s development extends beyond economic growth to encompass holistic progress, social justice, and environmental sustainability.
Her administration has implemented a comprehensive array of policies and initiatives aimed at eradicating poverty, promoting education, and ensuring healthcare accessibility for all. The “Digital Bangladesh” initiative, launched in 2009, exemplifies her forward-looking vision, aiming to transform the nation into a hub of information and communication technology. This visionary approach extends to infrastructure projects like the Padma Bridge and the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, which not only enhance connectivity but also lay the groundwork for a sustainable and energy-efficient future.
Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to an inclusive and environmentally conscious development agenda reflects her profound understanding of the interconnectedness between economic progress and societal well-being. A hallmark of Sheikh Hasina’s governance is her commitment to social welfare. The implementation of various programs aimed at poverty alleviation, education, and healthcare has not only lifted millions from poverty but has also strengthened the social fabric of the nation. Bangladesh’s progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a testament to the effectiveness of these initiatives.
Sheikh Hasina’s resilience in the face of multifaceted challenges has been a defining feature of her leadership. The Rohingya refugee crisis, triggered by Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya minority, posed an acute humanitarian challenge for Bangladesh. In response, Sheikh Hasina demonstrated exceptional diplomatic acumen by engaging with both regional and global partners to address the crisis. Her commitment to upholding the principles of humanity and compassion in the face of adversity showcases a leader who places the well-being of her people and the region above political considerations.
Despite the complex geopolitical dynamics surrounding the crisis, Sheikh Hasina’s unwavering resolve to find sustainable solutions reflects her dedication to ensuring stability and harmony in the region. In particular, the Rohingya refugee crisis, triggered by Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya minority, posed a humanitarian challenge for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina’s diplomatic efforts to address the crisis while maintaining regional stability underscore her leadership’s resilience in the face of complex challenges.
Sheikh Hasina’s diplomatic foresight has elevated Bangladesh’s standing on the global stage. Actively engaging with neighboring countries and participating in regional forums, she has positioned Bangladesh as a key player in shaping South Asian dynamics. Her diplomatic successes include the resolution of longstanding border disputes with India and Myanmar, emphasizing peaceful coexistence, economic cooperation, and collaborative efforts to address regional challenges.
By actively participating in international climate agreements and advocating for climate action, Sheikh Hasina has brought global attention to Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change and positioned the nation as a leader in climate diplomacy. Her adept navigation of intricate geopolitical landscapes demonstrates a diplomatic finesse that has earned her respect and admiration on the international stage.
Sheikh Hasina’s tenure as the longest-running female Prime Minister in the world is a testament to her enduring leadership prowess. Her remarkable ability to steer the ship of state through turbulent waters, both domestically and internationally, reflects a depth of leadership rarely seen. In a region where gender disparities have historically persisted, Sheikh Hasina has shattered glass ceilings and set an inspiring example for women in leadership. Her leadership style is characterized by a blend of pragmatism, empathy, and a hands-on approach to governance.
The achievements under her leadership, from economic growth to social welfare initiatives, exemplify the positive impact that women leaders can have on a nation’s development. Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to democratic principles is evident in her ability to navigate through turbulent political waters while upholding the sanctity of the democratic process. Her adept handling of internal and external challenges, including a delicate diplomatic balance between major powers like India and China, showcases her strategic finesse.
As Sheikh Hasina continues to guide Bangladesh with her visionary leadership, there is a sense of optimism for the nation’s future. The resilience she has demonstrated in overcoming challenges, coupled with her unwavering commitment to development, positions Bangladesh on a trajectory of sustained progress. In an era where global challenges require adept leadership, Sheikh Hasina’s vision, diplomacy, and leadership prowess stand as a beacon of hope for a Bangladesh that is not only economically prosperous but also socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and diplomatically influential on the world stage.
The positive trajectory of Bangladesh’s economic growth, diplomatic engagements, and environmental advocacy under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership positions the nation as a key player on the global stage. Her role in fostering friendly relations with neighboring countries, addressing regional challenges, and advocating for climate action has garnered international recognition.
As Bangladesh continues its journey under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, there is a palpable sense of optimism for the nation’s future. The enduring legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman lives on through the progressive and visionary governance of his daughter. Bangladesh’s trajectory of progress, economic growth, and social development is a testament to the transformative leadership provided by Sheikh Hasina.
In the annals of global statesmanship, Sheikh Hasina’s tenure as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh shines as a beacon of hope and resilience. Her commitment to democratic values, economic prosperity, and social welfare has not only shaped the destiny of Bangladesh but has also earned her admiration on the international stage. As the nation looks forward to a future marked by influence and significance, Sheikh Hasina remains a symbol of progressive leadership, embodying the ideals of democracy and progress.
Prof. Dr. Abu Nasir Rizvi
Dean BSMMU & Advisor, Diplomats World Publication