Sheikh Hasina – Bongobondhu Information & Research Center
Sheikh Hasina was born on 28th September, 1947 in Tungipara, a remote village under Gopalganj district, which is also the birthplace of the Father of the Nation Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She is the eldest daughter of Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Her mother Begum Fazilatunnesa was widely respected as a tender-hearted lady and for her love for the poor and needy people.
In 1968, Sheikh Hasina married an eminent scientist of Bangladesh, Dr. M.A. Wazed Miah. They are now the parents of a son and a daughter. After her marriage, Sheikh Hasina continued her studies and graduated from the University of Dhaka in 1973. Scion of a political family, she was actively involved in students politics in her college and university life. She gathered political experience in her role as the go-between in maintaining contact between her father and the political and student leaders during Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s repeated imprisonment by the Pakistani rulers in the 1960s. Always popular among students, Sheikh Hasina, as president of Govt. Intermediate Girls College unit of the Chhatra League, i.e., the students wing of the Awami League, was also elected Chief of the Student Union in 1966. She was an active member of the Students League of Dhaka University and Secretary of the Student League unit of Rokeya Hall. She actively participated in the mass movement of 1969, and at the time of the War of Liberation in 1971, she was imprisoned by the Pakistan occupation army along with other members of her family.
On the fateful night of August 15, 1975 some power hungry and bloodthirsty army officers assassinated the Father of the Nation who was also the elected Head of State, Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his wife, three sons and all the residents of his house. Sheikh Hasina and her only sister Sheikh Rehana survived the carnage as they were then visiting West Germany.
Sheikh Hasina was forced to live in exile because of the restrictions put on her by General Ziaur Rahman, the President of Bangladesh at the time. However, in 1981, she was elected President of the largest political party of Bangladesh, and no force could prevent her return to Bangladesh on 17 May 1981. On her return, she was heartily welcomed by millions of people who were eagerly waiting for the return of the daughter of democracy, Sheikh Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina is the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh to have succeeded in leading the ordinary masses to the threshold of political power. Governments have come and gone since the cowardly assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, but the toiling masses who form the bulk of the population of Bangladesh were always kept at bay in exercise of the power of the state. They were used as vassals by successive military dictators, but were never taken into confidence. They were used as showpieces to the donors in the dictators’ bid to get foreign aid and assistance. When aid came, the dictators and their hand-picked few plundered most of it. Poverty continued in its endemic form.
Even the elected government of the BNP led by the then Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia followed the same legacy of defiance and stubbornness that her husband General Ziaur Rahman and his most trusted Second-in-Command General Ershad had left in the body politic of Bangladesh. They exercised power first, to perpetuate their lust for authority and personal gains, and secondly, to keep the people of the country as far away as possible from the citadel of power.
The Elections on June 12, 1996 were an outcome of the vigorous and uncompromising political movement of the people led by Sheikh Hasina and her party which gave the people the chance to choose from among those who represent the power of the people, and not those who epitomise the military oligarchy.
On June 13, 1996 the Awami League won the elections. Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the nation her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had founded 25 years ago.
Time and again Sheikh Hasina has spoken candidly about her foremost political objective. She said, “We shall continue our struggle and our movement until such time as the economic emancipation of the poor is attained. The exploitation of the poor, who are in a vast majority in our society, by the rich, who are in a minority, must come to an end.”
After securing for the people their right to vote freely and fairly through the establishment of a non-party caretaker government, Sheikh Hasina has committed herself to secure their right to food and freedom from hunger and is on record to have done so. After assuming the responsibilities of the office of the Prime Minister on 23 June 1996, Sheikh Hasina has took revolutionary steps and initiated widespread programmes in the economic, social and political fields of the country for ensuring total and unhindered development of Bangladesh. She has in the last five years changed the lot of the poor living in the rural areas to a very large extent by undertaking programmes for alleviation of poverty, enhancement of per capita income, creation of job opportunities and increase in food production. She has introduced stipend for the old and for the widows. As Prime Minister, she personally ran a housing and income generation programme for the poorest of the poor in the rural areas called ‘Asrayan’. She undertook other housing, programmes as well and programmes like ‘A Home A Farm’ to encourage household forming and ‘Returning Home’ to reverse the trend of migration from the rural to the urban areas.
Sheikh Hasina has dedicated her life for the welfare of the people and the nation. She has personally nothing to gain or lose from political activities. Her politics is for the people. Sheikh Hasina had to cover a long way in her struggle to establish democracy in Bangladesh with the sole objective of giving rise to a free and just society. In this arduous journey, the people were the source of her strength. Today, Sheikh Hasina’s leadership is a main fountainhead for uniting the people and nation.
Sheikh Hasina says, ‘If, like my father, I have to sacrifice myself, I am ready for that.’ She is an undaunted soldier of democracy. Sheikh Hasina has further upheld and taken forward the light her father had lit. At the same time, she continues to discharge the heavy responsibilities that she has been entrusted with.
Sheikh Hasina earned the admiration of the entire nation when she converted her only home “Bangobondhu Bhaban” into “Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum”. This house is a silent witness to many historical events, including the nation’s War of Liberation and the assassination of its founding father. Sheikh Hasina put it in the charge of a Board of Trustees with herself as its Chairperson. Sheikh Hasina has consistently lent financial assistance to the families of the martyrs of the liberation war as well as poor and needy students.
Sheikh Hasina is an avid reader of books and journals on international politics, literature and social welfare. She is the author of several books e.g., ‘The Plight of The Street Children’, ‘The Origin of Autocracy’, the ‘Elimination of Poverty’, ‘Some Thoughts’, ‘People and democracy’ and ‘Development for the Masses’. She has also written numerous articles on different social, economic and political issues of the country. She is a prominent member of the cultural organization called Culture and Literature Sangha and a founder member of a leading sports club of the country, the Abahani Krira Chakra. Sheikh Hasina is a pious lady and has performed Hajj several times.
Endless patience, perseverance and tenacity combined with good judgement and regard for humanity have converged into the personality of Sheikh Hasina which have given her the courage to face and the ability to lead. The daughter of democracy represents the future of Bangladesh.