853Published on September 21, 2022
Dr. Rashid Askari:
There is no scarcity of people who suffer from inverted snobbery or tall poppy syndrome. There is never the dearth of people who fancy denouncing the power that be without rhyme or reason. What good is it criticising for the sake of criticism itself?
When it comes to evaluating Sheikh Hasina’s achievement as the premier and a leader, what strikes me most is her leadership qualities characterised by courage and humanity. A classic example of this is her sustainable Rohingya Refugees hosting and repatriation policy. Bangladesh has not ratified the UN Refugee Convention or its Protocol, nor does it have any national laws relating to the refugee matters. But then again, Sheikh Hasina has stood by them simply out of a sense of humanity and on her own responsibility as a global leader. The refugee situation of one crore people of Bangladesh during the Liberation War in 1971 and the displacement and political exiles of her own family after the August Tragedy in 1975 have prompted her to be on the Rohingya’s side in such a humanitarian catastrophe of enormous proportions. While millions of Rohingyas were in frantic flight from the marauding Tatmadaw (Myanmar armed forces) to seek refuge in fear of their life, and other countries sealing their border were watching the horrific images of ethnic cleansing on the satellite, Bangladesh came to save their life by opening the border and welcoming the Rohingya influx. Leading Dutch magazine the Diplomat has rightly honoured Sheikh Hasina with the title 'The Mother of Humanity'.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, Sheikh Hasina showed real leadership in crisis management. She did her utmost to fight an uphill battle against the pandemic. She tried to minimise its devastating effects in Bangladesh. When she realised that the disease could better be prevented by mass inoculation, she has worked out a national immunisation plan and implemented it quite successfully. In addition, she took measures to stabilise the commodity market by keeping a tight rein on price hikes and market shortfalls. Her initiative to ‘leave no piece of land uncultivated’ ensured food security and shielded against the famine that could have plagued Bangladesh. She gave a comprehensive stimulus package to reduce the adverse effects of coronavirus pandemic.
Sheikh Hasina’s idea of trans-national cooperation is highly pragmatic in tackling the COVID-19 crisis. She urged the United Nations to continue to play its catalytic role in this regard. In her pre-recorded speech made on December 3, 2020 at the 31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened in response to COVID-19 pandemic, Sheikh Hasina proposed six points before the world leaders on having a better coordinated roadmap to face the pandemic crisis. Hasina’s pandemic crisis management strategies have been highly appreciated at home and abroad.
Sheikh Hasina’s leadership skills show a sharp contrast with other contemporary women leaders of the country. We have seen both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia at the helm of the government but in terms of their leadership qualities there is no comparison. Khaleda Zia had no control over her party and even over her son—Tarique Zia let alone the country’s management. She was virtually a puppet premier controlled by strings puller by her son and his henchmen who took de facto control of the country. The creation of the so-called Hawa Bhaban as sort of ‘a parallel government’ is the result of a complete failure of Khaleda Zia as a prime minister. On the contrary, Sheikh Hasina has proved herself as an adroit statesman with whom the control resides. She is able to keep a tight rein both on her party and the administration. She has a strong personality and much real experience of statecraft. She was highly applauded for having controlled the 2009 Pilkhana carnage situation with considerable tact that happened in less than two months after she was sworn in as the premier for the second time. She is known as an iron lady who had brought the killers of the Father of the Nation to justice; compelled the war criminals to stand trial and face execution; and subdued the religious militants with an iron fist.
Sheikh Hasina had appeared on our political scene as the saviour of Bangladesh deceased with the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975. She rescued the nation from two decades of misrule by the ghosts of the defeated forces in the Liberation War and the beneficiaries of Bangabandhu killing. She came back to Bangladesh, cleaned the post-1975 corrosion and saved the country.
She has also developed a voice of her own and is making it heard in the regional and global geopolitics. She is making her presence felt in the world and the world leaders also hold her in high esteem. She had the guts to defy the World Bank’s cancellation of the Padma Bridge project credit and fight legal battle against the big boys. Not only that, she made the impossible possible by having completed, quite independently, the country’s longest multipurpose bridge which is easily the most challenging construction project in the history of Bangladesh. The Padma Bridge has now become a tangible reality which is a bold move on the part of Sheikh Hasina’s government, a proud symbol of the country’s economic independence and above all an embodiment of her visionary leadership.
Sheikh Hasina’s visionary leadership skills also find expression in the establishment of the political, social and economic development frameworks by her government like the Vision 2021 and Vision 2041. She has always been a prudent leader who cherishes the dream of her country’s graduation—from the less developed country to a developing country and then to a developed country through the implementation of the visions, missions and strategic plans. She is such a visionary leader that she is doing a great deal to forward the process of development a hundred years ahead of her time by implementing the Delta Plan 2100.
In Bangladesh’s relations with the sub-continental, South Asian and Asian countries, Hasina is showing great courage and diplomatic acumen. She has, by now, established herself as a key factor in the regional and global geopolitics. In a world of fierce rivalry for supremacy, Sheikh Hasina can very well strike a balance between Bangladesh and the rest of the world and fight to protect its interest. She is a visionary leader and one of the most far-sighted politicians in the world. She has taken Bangladesh from the so-called basket case to the status of a role model for development.
Writer: former vice chancellor of Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh.