MNA Editorial Desk: On May 17, 2019 we had observed the 38th homecoming day of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Though we as a nation do not realize the importance of this day totally and colour it with political angles but this day is very significant in the history of Bangladesh. With the grief of losing her whole family except her sister Sheikh Rehana, who was with her abroad during the barbaric and inhuman killing of all her family members, she returned to Bangladesh from deportation ignoring dictator’s bloody eyes on May 17, 1981.
Her return changed the political scenario of Bangladesh totally. People started dreaming about restoration of democracy in Bangladesh again which was being ruled by complete autocratic rulers since Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s brutal killing in 1975. Her return is hence significant for democracy, development, peace and communal harmony in Bangladesh.
Sheikh Hasina was born on September 28, 1947–only a few days after liberation of India and Pakistan from the British rule. Eldest daughter of the greatest Bengali of all times, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina is four-time Prime Minister of Bangladesh today. She has noteworthy contribution in making Bangladesh a role model of development and in gaining the honour that we hold today in the global community. In all her terms, she had focused on certain issues to resolve and had been successful in attaining her targets. It will not be wrong to say that she likes to take challenges that take Bangladesh even a little further.
From her student life, Sheikh Hasina was involved in active politics. Under the huge shadow of her father, she started to gain own identity very early. But only a few years after the independence, with brutal killing of Bangabandhu, she was thrown into the sea of pain, grief and uncertainty. She could not even bid farewell to her family members as it was impossible for her and her sister to return to Bangladesh even in the face of that deep shock. On August 15, 1975, they were in Germany.
They were moving from one place to another for shelter and all the doors seem shut for them until they finally settled for a while in India after 19 days of that coward assassination. On May 17 in 1981, Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to Bangladesh from India, nearly six years after the assassination of her father. She landed in Dhaka from Delhi via Kolkata with her daughter and Awami League leaders to see a massive crowd of hundreds of thousands waiting for her return at the then Dhaka Airport in the capital. Three months before the return of Hasina, the party made her president at a national council of Awami League held from February 14-16, 1981.
On May 17, 1981, Hasina came straight from the airport to a rally on Manik Mia Avenue. There in a speech, she expressed her wish to stay beside the people of Bangladesh as their sister, daughter and a worker of Awami League who believes in the ideals of Bangabandhu. The rally was arranged on the street in front of the National Parliament. The mass gathering heard her speech with pin drop silence and strong slogans. Upon her return, for the first time after Bangabandhu’s assassination, people chanted the ‘Joy Bangla’ slogan openly.
After the rally, in the evening, amid heavy rain, Sheikh Hasina moved with a large crowd to Dhanmondi 32, the house of Bangabandhu where the family was assassinated. She wanted to see her home and pray for the departed souls of the victims, but the security did not let her in. Sheikh Hasina with her party members then sat on the road and held a prayer for her family members. She then went to her husband’s house.
Sheikh Hasina became active in politics after returning to Bangladesh to address the needs of people, stressed from dictator’s maladministration. At least 20 attempts were made to kill her prior and after her return to Bangladesh. But she never left her goal of implementing her father’s dreams. Her role in restoring democracy in Bangladesh through uprooting autocratic leader H M Ershad cannot be forgotten.
May 17, 1981 was not her only homecoming. During the caretaker government regime of 2006-08, she was arrested and later went abroad for treatment. On April 18, 2007, the government barred Hasina from returning, saying that she had made provocative statements and that her return could cause disorder. Hasina vowed to return home and on April 22, a warrant was issued for her arrest for murder and Hasina said that she wanted to defend herself against the charges in court. The very next day, the arrest warrant was suspended and on April 25, the ban on Hasina’s entry was dropped. After spending 51 days in the United States and the United Kingdom, on May 7, 2007 Hasina returned to Dhaka, where she was greeted by a crowd of several thousand.
The signs of prudence that Sheikh Hasina displayed while leading this nation is very hard to portray in short. During her first term as the head of the government, she took the tough challenge of restoring peace in the hill tracts and she successfully did so. She declared to build ‘Digital Bangladesh’ after taking charge of the government for the second term in 2009. She promised that implementation of the ‘Padma Bridge’ project is one of her first targets. She had to face international conspiracy with that project. But unstoppable Sheikh Hasina became stronger and braver. Works of Padma bridge project with own funding is proceeding greatly. We are transforming into ‘Digital Bangladesh’ with high confidence. The country progressed significantly under her leadership with so many high-end development projects and when all these will be implemented, Bangladesh will obviously reach new heights.
During the four terms of Sheikh Hasina’s government, the people and the world witnessed huge development of Bangladesh. Declaration and implementation of ‘Digital Bangladesh’; ongoing implementation of Vision 2021; punishment of Bangabandhu’s murderers; judgment and punishment of war criminals; enormous success in meeting country’s electricity demand; starting of Padma bridge project works; notable success in women’s empowerment and development; improvement in quality of education and uplifting literacy rate from 53.7 per cent (2008) to 72.9 per cent (2018); promoting foreign currency reserve from USD 5.79bn (2008) to USD 30.8bn (2018); elevating per capita income of Bangladesh from USD 698.7 (2008) to USD 1675 (2018); expanding the border and increasing the area of Bangladesh through successful claim of enclaves from India and sea area from both India and Myanmar; strong handling of terrorism inside the country; playing bold role in stopping insurgency from Bangladesh against neighbouring countries; managing the huge influx of Rohingya refugees etc. are few among many success stories of her government.
The biggest achievement of Sheikh Hasina must have been her triumph over the war criminals, terrorists and killers of Bangabandhu. She had ensured the war criminals, who were roaming on the soils of independent Bangladesh while damaging the country by killing the ideology of liberation war, were brought to justice and the judiciary delivered highest punishment for their heinous crimes. Similar was the case with the killers of Bangabandhu though few of them are yet to be served with punishment due to their exile.
Rise of terrorism was the greatest concern of Bangladesh in recent years. There were shameful terrorist attacks of different scale in Bangladesh which created huge fear and concern among the people both from home and abroad. But Hasina took a bold decision to declare an all out war on terrorism and the law enforcers were successful in containing the threats. Similarly, Sheikh Hasina’s contribution in restoration of communal harmony and religious harmony is noteworthy.
Sheikh Hasina has now become a world leader from people’s leader. She received international laurels and many coveted awards from all around the globe. ‘Planet 50-50 Champion’ award; ‘Agent of Change’ award; ‘Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize’; ‘Mother Teresa Award’; ‘M K Gandhi Award’; ‘Peace Tree Award’; ‘UN Environment Prize’; ‘Champions of the Earth Award’; ‘ICT Sustainable Development Award’; ‘South-South Cooperation Visionary Award’ are some of the most notable accomplishment of Sheikh Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina is considered one of the most powerful women in the world, ranking 26th on Forbes’ list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2018 and 30th in 2017. Sheikh Hasina has also made her room in the list of top 100 Global Thinkers of the present decade as the famous US-based Foreign Policy journal came up with a register of worldwide thinkers. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an International network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers.
Today, we can imagine ourselves as a developed country of the world someday while leading a peaceful life with basic rights ensured and free from all fears. But truly if Sheikh Hasina had not returned to Bangladesh in 1981 and also in 2007, then we could not have dreamt of such progress of our beloved Bangladesh. It is Sheikh Hasina who is driving the development, secular and democratic stature, establishment of liberation war ideologies, peace, harmony and stability in Bangladesh.
Hence, like Bangabandhu’s birthday on March 17 and homecoming day on January 10, birthday of Bangabandhu’s worthy daughter Sheikh Hasina on September 28 and homecoming day on both May 17 and May 7 is equally significant in the history of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu dreamt of a ‘Golden Bangla’ and his daughter is working relentlessly to turn that dream into a reality. We, all Bangladeshi citizens, put our trust on her for a better Bangladesh and a bright future.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)