1959Published on December 14, 2022
The Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led Bangladesh to have emerged as an independent state. Following his footstep, his daughter Sheikh Hasina also led Awami League to turn Bangladesh into a developing digital state in the world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also the President of Awami League, transferred the starving nation into a modern self-reliant one through her poverty alleviation model in just 14 years amid the rise of extremism.
Awami League, the party that gave birth to independent Bangladesh, witnessed a difficult time after the assassination of Bangabandhu along with his family and the murder of four national leaders in 1975. But returning to the country, Sheikh Hasina revived the party and gave the oppressed Bengali nation a dream of life again.
Bringing back parliamentary democracy by ousting dictatorship
In the absence of Bangabandhu, dedicated leaders and activists of the Awami League elected his daughter Sheikh Hasina as the party’s supreme leader in the 1981 council to unite the party. Then braving her life, she returned to the country and started running in every corner of the country like her father.
She vowed to rebuild the nation after seeing the poverty-stricken lives of the people and reorganized the party. She built strong public opinion against extremism and dictatorship through devoted Awami League leaders and activists across the country.
As a result, she survived repeated assassination attempts on her life. However, after nearly a decade of relentless struggle, the dictatorship toppled, and democracy returned to Bangladesh.
Despite winning popularity in the 1991 elections, the Awami League failed to form the government due to some subtle rigging by the BNP and anti-state forces during voting. Also, the internal conflicts and conspiracies within the party divided 1.81 per cent of votes (more than 6 lakh) of Awami League, affecting the overall result in every constituency.
As a result, Sheikh Hasina had to sit in the opposition with a margin of less than 8 per cent (about two and a half lakh) votes. However, she pressured the BNP government to introduce parliamentary democratic governance as the chief opposition leader.
The victory of the united Awami League after 21 years
The accountable democratic parliamentary system returned in Bangladesh thanks to the firm stance of the Awami League as a strong opposition party led by Sheikh Hasina. At the same time, the daughter of Bangabandhu focused on coordinating her party after dealing with extremists and dictators.
After five years of her tireless efforts, the united Awami League finally won the 1996 election in a landslide. The party which led the Liberation War finally formed the government after 21 years under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina.
However, the BNP-Jamaat coalition government tried its best to wipe out the Awami League through brutal torture and persecution. They made assassination attempts to kill Sheikh Hasina by throwing bombs and grenades in public in this regard. But taking the risk of her life, she took to the streets and started building public opinion, which frightened the BNP-Jamaat alliance. So, the extremists tried to stay in government illegally through a rigged election in 2007 with 1.23 million fake voters.
But they gave in to the bold stance of Sheikh Hasina. She called upon the caretaker government to annul the fake voter list, prepare a fresh one with photo identities, and hold elections in transparent ballot boxes. As a result, Bangladesh Awami League formed the government again in 2009 with a historic victory by a margin of two-thirds of votes through a free and fair election.
Fulfilment of the promise of the Liberation War
Bangabandhu spoke about ensuring food and shelter for ordinary people at every stage of the Bengalis’ struggle for liberation. Awami League took Bangabandhu’s humanitarian philosophy as its promise to the people. As a result, Awami League became a party of ordinary people, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in 1996, took a far-reaching initiative to ensure the peace and prosperity of the oppressed and deprived people.
In the meantime, the Awami League government was able to sign a much-waited water distribution treaty with India over Sheikh Hasina's personal efforts. The agreement mitigated the conflict over the water sharing of the Ganges and facilitated irrigation for agriculture in the southwestern part of the country during the dry season. It brought 72 per cent of the dry land of the country under irrigation, and hugely contributed to agricultural production.
Sheikh Hasina made Bangladesh self-sufficient in food production in 1999. For the first time since independence, she freed hunger and poverty from the society within just three years of the formation of the Awami League-led government.
After ensuring the food security of the people, Sheikh Hasina adopted the humanitarian policy for ensuring shelter for the destitute. The daughter of Bangabandhu daughter led the Awami League government to launch the Ashrayan Project in 1997 for the landless, homeless and disaster-affected people. Around one million landless and homeless people were given land and houses so far under the project.
Resolving conflicts, Ensuring internal security and Creating a peaceful society
After 1975, conflicts arose with the small ethnic groups in the country’s hill tracts due to the lack of foresight of the dictators. The hill tracts remained cut off from the rest of the country. But after forming the government in 1996, honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave importance to resolving the problem.
In 1997, the Awami League government signed a historic peace agreement with the isolated people of the hilly regions, establishing the rights of Bengali and minority people there. At the same time, tourism expanded in the regions, too.
After forming the Awami League government in 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started efforts to get a fair share of the waters. In 2014, Bangladesh won 19,467 square kilometres of the disputed 25,602 square kilometres of maritime territory with India after fighting a long legal battle in the arbitration court. As a result, Bangladesh got all the 10 gas blocks once claimed by India. Earlier in 2012, Bangladesh settled the maritime boundary dispute with Myanmar and established authority over the huge reservoir. Bangladesh also gets ownership of 18 blocks out of 28 blocks located in the sea of that region.
It is the Awami League government that was able to end the 40-year-long dispute with its neighbours over the maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh gets a permanent maritime boundary, covering 1 lakh 18 thousand 813 square km. But before that, Bangladesh could not even acess to 50 thousand square kilometres of the maritime border as no other government tried to understand this fair dues of the country.
Disaster Response and Achieving the Humanitarian Welfare State
International media outlets predicted that severe floods, that inundated 70% of the country in 1998, could cause around one million deaths. But due to the planned relief management and voluntary programs of the Sheikh Hasina-led government, not a single person died in starvation or floods. After seeing the role of Sheikh Hasina in dealing with the disaster, she was called a ‘wonderful leader’ in the international arena.
After bringing Awami League to power in 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the initiative to digitize the country. She provided electricity and internet facility to every house. The Covid pandemic could not stop humanitarian and development activities due to her modern and timely leadership. With her direction, government assistance was delivered to the doors of more than one crore Covid affected families on regular basis. Approximately 5 million farmers, workers and day labourers affected by the natural disasters and pandemics received cash through a digitized system.
A total of 91 lakh people, including widows, divorcees, the elderly and the disabled, are being given protection allowances. Maternity leave has risen from four months to six months, and paternity leave has also been introduced. The leader of the people, Sheikh Hasina, has raised the allowances to Tk 20,000 for the freedom fighters and their families.
Only 47 per cent of people in the country had access to electricity in 2009 when the current Prime Minister took office. The number of electricity connections increased to more than 3 crores 50 lakh from 1 crore 10 lakh, and power generation 25 megawatts from 4 thousand megawatts. The government has provided electricity connections to 70 thousand villages. The country's first nuclear power plant is also going to be functional soon at Rooppur. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has been launched into space to compete with developed countries of the world. Bangladesh has surprised the world by constructing a two-story bridge on the river Padma with its own funding. The Awami League government has been able to carry out these unimaginable activities because of Sheikh Hasina's courage and confidence.
Further, the Awami League government has upgraded the country's highways with four and six lanes, constructed tunnels under the Karnaphuli river, built metro trains to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka, and hundreds of aesthetic bridges to ease the communication system. Under the instructions of the honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the government also built 560 model mosques for proper religious education and religious practice.
When the international community struggles to eradicate poverty from the world with various initiatives, including small loans, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's plan has come out successful. The Awami League government first provided temporary land and houses for the landless to implement that plan. Then they were given interest-free loans and vocational training for creating their own employment opportunities. As a result, their new generation has been enlightened in the light of education. This is Sheikh Hasina's poverty alleviation model, hailed as a ‘model of development by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN session in 2019.
Currently, Bangladesh is exporting software and other digital services worth USD 1.3 billion. Also, about 650,000 freelancers are earning more than USD 500 million in remittances annually through outsourcing. The Awami League government is trying to achieve a target of at least USD 5 billion in exports from this sector by 2025. However, before 2009, 99 per cent of people in the country did not know how to use the Internet. Bangladesh has been established as a digital and humanitarian state in the world in just one era, thanks to the indomitable passion and inspiration of Bangabandhu and Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to move the Bengali nation forward.