How Sheikh Hasina’s Return in 1981 Led to the Rise of Indomitable Bangladesh

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Published on May 16, 2024
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While the world recognizes the story of rise, growth and transformation of Bangladesh under the leadership of world’s longest serving female Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, rarely does the spotlight turn on the tumultuous odds she has defied to help the country scale these milestones.

Having lived six years in forced exile following the gruesome assassinations of as many as 19 family members including father, mother, brother and sister among others in 1975, a resolute Sheikh Hasina returned to Bangladesh on May 17, 1981 amid threats of attempts on her life.

That assassination in 1975 had plunged the country in a state of chaos with the very foundation of democracy has been tore apart. As military dictators took over, the rule of law left in shambles with killers of founding fathers indemnified and war criminals were given free pass to derail the liberation war values, let alone voting rights were snatched away from people with the stature of the country spiraled to record downward on global stage.

Driven by the sheer zeal to serve her people and take the course of development to new heights in the youngest nation in South Asia, an unfinished dream of her father, she has demonstrated grit, courage and resilience and sacrifice beyond the scale of other female western leaders.

But her return heralded in a long struggle for the restoration of democracy and in between 43 years since her arrival Bangladesh soared not only in development indices rather earned the tag of rising Tiger while global powers are now looking at Bangladesh in a new light: a rising star in South Asia.

Over the space of last four decades, her road has been fraught with insurmountable challenges: facing incarceration based on trumped up charges to assassination attempts, waging mass movement for restoring democracy, defy military rulers and keep militant and terror groups at bay.

Living up with the ideals of her father for a brighter, prosperous and secular Bangladesh that would boast of a secular syncretic culture, she exhibited zero tolerance to terrorism, ended the impunity for war criminals, oversaw economic empowerment of women at an unprecedented scale, becoming a target of militants, war criminals, military rulers, radical and terror groups since her arrival.

While BNP Jamaat regime during its last rule made Bangladesh a haven for terrorists and militants, no wonder rooting out the scourge has been a battle she fought with a steely resolve.

The impact of terrorism in Bangladesh has been reported to be "low" on a terrorism scale as per the eleventh edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2024.

So decades down the line, her return has ignited the hope for a new Bangladesh and set out new vision for a brighter nation, an accomplishment for that she and her party deserve kudos.