Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina is a Bangladeshi politician and current Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

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Sheikh Hasina (Bengali: শেখ হাসিনা Shekh Hasina) (born 28 September 1947) is a Bangladeshi politician and current Prime Minister of Bangladesh.[1] She has been the President of the Bangladesh Awami League since 1981. She is the eldest of five children of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father and first president of Bangladesh and widow of a reputed nuclear scientist, M. A. Wazed Miah. Sheikh Hasina's party defeated the BNP-led Four-Party Alliance in the 2008 parliamentary elections, thus assuring her of the post of prime minister. Sheikh Hasina has once before held the office, from 1996 to 2001.

Early life

Sheikh Hasina's political career started as a student activist in Dhaka Government Intermediate College in the 1960s. While at College, she was elected vice president of the College Students Union for the term 1966–1967.

During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Hasina, then a young mother, was held under house arrest with her mother, brothers, sister and her son. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned in West Pakistan during this period. After liberation, Hasina's involvement in politics was minimal as Sheikh Kamal, her brother, was touted as Mujib's successor.

Exile life

On 15 August 1975, her father and almost her entire family, including her mother and three brothers, was assassinated in a coup d'état by a section of disgruntled officers of the Bangladesh Army, some of whom were freedom fighters during 1971.[2] Sheikh Hasina and her sister, Sheikh Rehana were on a goodwill tour of West Germany at that time. Hasina then sought refuge in United Kingdom and later, in India. She lived in exile in New Delhi, India, until she was allowed to return to Bangladesh on 17 May 1981.

Movement against autocracy

While living in self-exile in India, Sheikh Hasina was elected President of the Bangladesh Awami League in 1981. After she returned to Bangladesh, President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in yet another coup in May 1981. The following year, General Hossain Mohammad Ershad captured power through a bloodless coup and declared martial law. In 1983, Hasina formed the 15-party alliance to launch a movement to oust him from power. She was in and out of detention throughout the 1980s. Her party, along with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Ziaur Rahman's widow Khaleda Zia, was instrumental in the movement against the military rule. In 1984, Hasina was put under house arrest in February and then again in November. In March 1985, she was put under house arrest for three months. In 1990, Hasina's 8-party alliance was instrumental along with another BNP-led alliance in finally removing the Ershad regime.

There are some contradictions in her role. Among them, Sheikh Hasina supported abortive military coup led by Lt. General A S M Nasim in 1996 and coming back to power in the same year gave Nasim normal retirement instead of earlier dismissal order. She also supported Lt Gen Moeen U Ahmed's military coup in 2007 and promised to legitimite his illegal regime. At her instruction Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil signed treaty with Jatiya Party to make H M Ershad President. She committed Moeen to make President as well. Another 5 points treaty was signed with Khelafat Majlish to ban Kadiyani in Bangladesh and formulate Blashfemy law and all these agreements were breached. Sheikh Hasina promoted General Masud with extensions both in civil and military services, who is Khaleda Zia's relative and acted against her too.

Leader of the opposition

Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League participated in the 1986 Parliamentary elections held under President Lieutenant-General Hossain Mohammad Ershad. She served as the leader of the opposition in 1986–1987. Hasina's decision to take part in the election has been criticized by her opponents, since the election was held under dictatorial rule. Her supporters maintain that she used the platform effectively to challenge Ershad's rule. The parliament was dissolved in December 1987. Being the leader of the opposition Sheikh Hasina always pushed the govt. to render accountability and transparency in all sphere of life criticizing the activities of the cabinet.

The first democratic elections were held in 1991 after a long period of military rule. A caretaker government, headed by Shahabuddin Ahmed, the outgoing chief justice, oversaw the elections. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won the election, and Hasina's Awami League emerged as the largest opposition party. Hasina was defeated in the Dhaka constituencies that she contested by Sadeque Hossain Khoka, later Mayor of Dhaka and Major Abdul Mannan (Retd.), later State Minister for Civil Aviation and Textile and now Secretary General of Bikalpa Dhara but was elected to the Parliament from her home constituency in Gopalganj. Hasina accused the BNP of "nuanced rigging" in elections. Hasina, nevertheless, offered to resign as the party president but later stayed on at the request of party leaders. Khaleda Zia of the BNP took office as the first female Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Politics in Bangladesh took a decisive turn in 1994, after Magura by-elections. This election was held after the MP for that constituency, a member of Hasina's party, died. The Awami League was expected to win it back, but the seat was won by the BNP. The opposition parties accused the BNP of widespread rigging and the election commission of incompetence. The Awami League, with other opposition parties, demanded that the next general elections be held under a caretaker government, and that the notion of a caretaker government be incorporated in the constitution. The ruling party of Khaleda Zia, Hasina's arch rival, refused to give in to these demands.

Opposition parties launched an unprecedented campaign, calling strikes for weeks on end. The government accused them of destroying the economy while the opposition countered that BNP could solve this problem by acceding to their demands. In late 1995, the MPs of the Awami League and other parties lost their seats due to prolonged absence from parliament. The government declared elections on February 15, 1996, an election that was boycotted by all major parties except the ruling BNP. Hasina claimed that the election was a farce. The elected parliament, composed mostly of BNP members, finally amended the constitution to create provisions for a caretaker government. The next parliamentary elections were held under a caretaker government headed by Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman on June 30, 1996.

Prime minister

U.S. President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina making a joint statement to the press following their bilateral meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Dhaka during Clinton's visit to Bangladesh in March 2000

The Awami League won 146 seats in the 1996 parliamentary elections. The support of the Jatiya Party and a few independent candidates were enough for the 150+ seats needed for the required majority. Hasina took the oath as Prime minister of Bangladesh. She vowed to create a Government of National Unity. Though some smaller parties and a few individuals from BNP did join the government, the distance between the main two political parties (as well as their leaders) remained as large as ever. Hasina did manage to convince Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, who led the first caretaker government, to assume the post of President. This selection of an unbiased person as president was praised by her supporters as a proof of Hasina's goodwill to reach out to the opposition.

A major achievement of the new government was to strike a treaty between India and Bangladesh concerning the Farakka Dam, a bone of contention between the two countries ever since it was built in the 1960s. According to the treaty, Bangladesh was to receive 33 thousand cubic feet per second (930 m³/s) of water. Hasina next went on to create a 'Peace Treaty' with the tribal rebels in the mountainous southeast of the country, thus seemingly solving a problem as old as Bangladesh itself. Though rebel activities have reduced greatly after the treaty, the region remains a hotbed of tension.

On the down side, the Awami League was criticized for harbouring gangsters turned politicians, most notably Jainal Hazari of Feni. Her government was also criticized for overusing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—the country's founding leader and also father to Sheikh Hasina—in the media and naming many major public institutions and constructions after him. The Awami League maintained that previous governments had tried to systematically eradicate Sheikh Mujib's legacy from the country and that the honour he was getting was long overdue. The BNP also accused the Awami League of politicising the administration and state-owned media. Her party was also accused of being lenient towards India, especially after a shootout between border forces of India and Bangladesh left 16 Indian and 3 Bangladeshi border guards dead.

During the last year of her rule, Transparency International declared Bangladesh to be the most corrupt country in the world. Though Bangladesh had almost always been in the bottom five, the last position created an uproar and was seen by many as a major failure by Hasina. Though Hasina was voted out of office later, Bangladesh remained at the last position for some more years. The opposition demanded that Hasina resign and declare early elections, but Hasina refused to do so. She became the first democratically elected prime minister to complete her term.

Justice Latifur Rahman became the head of the caretaker government. Awami League alleged that he was biased towards BNP after he transferred a large number of civil servants immediately after taking office. Later, Hasina would also accuse President Shahabuddin Ahmed and election official Abu Sayeed of biased actions.

Landslide defeat (2001 election)

The Awami League succumbed to a landslide defeat in the 2001 Parliament elections. It won only 62 seats in the Parliament, while the 'Four Party Alliance' led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party won 234 seats, giving them a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Hasina herself was defeated in a constituency in Rangpur, which happened to contain her husband's hometown, but won in two other seats. Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League rejected the results, claiming that the election was rigged with the help of the President and the Caretaker government. However, the international community was largely satisfied with the elections and the 'Four Party Alliance' went on to form the government.

The Awami League has been irregular in attending the Parliament ever since. Hasina maintains that the ruling party didn't give the opposition enough time on the floor. In late 2003, the Awami League started its first major anti-government movement, culminating in the declaration by party general secretary Abdul Jolil that the government would fall before April 30, 2004. This failed to happen and was seen as a blow to the party and Hasina herself, who had implicitly supported Jalil.


During her second term as leader of the opposition, there were several assassinations and attempted killings of important party personnel, including an attack on Hasina.[citation needed] Ahsanullah Master, an MP, was killed in 2004. This was followed by a grenade attack on Hasina in Dhaka, resulting in the death of 21 party supporters, including party women's secretary Ivy Rahman. Finally, her ex-finance minister, Shah M S Kibria, was killed in a grenade attack in Sylhet.

In June 2005, the Awami League got a boost when Awami League-nominated incumbent mayor A.B.M. Mohiuddin Chowdhury won the important mayoral election in Chittagong, the port city and second largest city in Bangladesh. This election was seen as a showdown between the opposition and the ruling party.

Political situation, caretaker government and military intervention 2006-2008

The planned January 22, 2007, elections were marred by controversy. The Awami League and its allies protested, saying that the elections would not be fair because of alleged bias by the caretaker government in favor of Khaleda Zia and the BNP. Hasina demanded that the head of the caretaker government, President Iajuddin Ahmed, step down. In this situation President's Advisor Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury met Sheikh Hasina at Sudha Sadan, negotiated, met demands of Awami League and its allies and solved political problems, which followed Hasina and other leaders meeting with President Iajuddin Ahmed at Bangabhaban. Mukhles Chowdhury also met Khaleda Zia in the mission of solving problems.[3] As a result, all political parties including Awami League participated in planned 22 January 2007 elections. In the meantime, H M Ershad's nomination was canceled through conspiracy in order to foil the elections.[4] Presidential Advisor tried the best to stop it. As army group finally became united through one Aminul Karim's initiative and also Ershad's nomination was canceled, Sheikh Hasina on January 3, 2007 announced that the Awami League and its allies would boycott the elections.[5] Later in the month a state of emergency was imposed, Ahmed stepped down, and the elections were postponed.

Extortion allegations and criminal charges

On 9 April 2007, it was announced that Bangladesh police were investigating extortion charges against Hasina. She was accused of forcing Bangladeshi businessman Tajul Islam Farooq to pay bribes before his company could build a power plant in 1998. Farooq said that he paid Hasina 30 million takas (US$441,000, or €383,211) to get his project approved by the government, according to a police official.[6]

On 11 April 2007, murder charges were filed against her by the police, alleging that she masterminded the killing of four supporters of a rival political party in October 2006. The four alleged victims were beaten to death during clashes between the Awami League and rival party activists. Deputy police commissioner, Shahidul Haq Bhuiyan said "detective branch police submitted the charge-sheet of the case to a Dhaka court today after carrying out investigations and taking evidence."[7] She was visiting the United States at the time.[8]

The interim administration subsequently took steps to prevent Hasina's return to Bangladesh, with The New Nation newspaper reported on 17 April 2007 that airlines had been asked not to allow her to return to Dhaka. She had been planning to return on 23 April 2007.[9] On 18 April 2007, the government barred Hasina from her planned return, stating that she had made provocative statements and that her return could cause disorder. This was described as a temporary measure.[10] Hasina vowed to return home anyway, and on 22 April 2007, a warrant was issued by a Bangladeshi court for her arrest.[11][12] On the same day, Hasina attempted to board a flight back to Bangladesh in London but was not allowed on the flight.[13] Labelling the case against her as "totally false and fake", Hasina said that she wanted to defend herself against the charges in court. On 23 April 2007, the arrest warrant was suspended,[14] and on 25 April 2007, the ban on Hasina's entry into the country was dropped.[15]

With her rival Khaleda Zia being pressured to go into exile at the same time, the government's actions against Hasina appeared to be an attempt to restructure the political system rather than an attempt to support her rival.

After spending 51 days in the United States and the UK, on 7 May 2007 Sheikh Hasina arrived at Airport in Dhaka where she was greeted by a jubilant crowd of several thousands. At the airport Hasina told reporters that it was a mistake for the government to stop her from returning and that she hoped it would not make a bigger mistake", while acknowledging that its reversal was a positive gesture.[16]

July 2007 arrest

On 16 July 2007, Hasina was arrested by state police at her home and taken before a local court in Dhaka.[17] She was accused of extortion and denied bail on the same day, and was held in a building converted into a jail on the premises of the National Parliament. According to the Awami League, the arrest was politically motivated.[18]

On 17 July 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission sent a notice to Hasina, along with Zia, requesting that details of her assets be submitted to the Commission within one week.[19]

Hasina's son Sajeeb Wazed Joy stated that the caretaker government were going beyond their limits, saying he did not plan to return to Bangladesh immediately, but would try to organize worldwide protest. The arrest was widely seen as move by the military-backed interim government to force Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh into political exile.[20] Earlier attempts had been made to bar her from coming back to Bangladesh.[21] United Kingdom MPs condemned the arrest.[22]

On 30 July 2007, the Dhaka High Court suspended the extortion trial of her and ordered her release on bail.[23] On 2 September 2007, an additional case was filed against Hasina by the Anti-Corruption Commission regarding the awarding of a contract for the construction of a power plant in 1997, for which she allegedly took a bribe of 30 million takas and kept the contract from going to the lowest bidder; six others were also accused of involvement.[24][25] This coincided with a case filed against Zia on the same day.[24]

On 13 January 2008, she was indicted by a special court along with two of her relatives, her sister Sheikh Rehana and her cousin Sheikh Selim, on extortion charges.[26] On February 6, however, the High Court stopped the trial, ruling that she could not be prosecuted under emergency laws for alleged crimes committed prior to the imposition of the state of emergency.[27]

On 11 June 2008, Hasina was released on parole for medical reasons and the next day she flew to the United States to be treated for hearing impairment, eye problems and high blood pressure.[28] [29] Prof. Syed Modasser Ali, her personal physician, threatened to sue the caretaker government over negligence regarding Hasina's treatment during her detention.[30]

Landslide victory (2008 election)

Sheikh Hasina with David Cameron in London

On 6 November 2008, Hasina returned to Bangladesh after having inter-relation with M U Ahmed to lead her party in general elections scheduled for 29 December 2008.[31] On 11 December 2008, Sheikh Hasina announced her party's election manifesto during a news conference. In her election manifesto she vowed to build a "Digital Bangladesh" by 2021.[32] Sheikh Hasina's Awami league won the elections on 29 December 2008 with an overwhelming majority for the game played by M U Ahmed.[33] in the 2008 Parliamentary Elections. Her party achieved a landslide victory reminiscent of the 1971 elections of Pakistan. Under her leadership, the party has achieved a supermajority in parliament, controlling 230 seats out of 299. She was sworn into office as the Prime Minister for the second time on 6 January 2009. The Prime Minister is the most powerful executive position in Bangladesh, although technically of lower seniority compared to the office of President. Begum Zia, however, rejected the results of the election, sarcastically thanking the Chief Election Commissioner "for stage-managing the parliamentary election" in a statement. But, according to the views expressed by foreign and local election observers, the general elections were free, fair and credible.[34]

After coming to power Sheikh Hasina did not respect her agreement with Jatiya Party to make Hussain Muhammad Ershad the President [35]

After her election, members of the Jatiyo Sanghsad (National Parliament) exclaimed that the Prime Minister should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her career wide efforts. Lawmaker Zunaid Ahmed Palak said[36]

Sheikh Hasina's government accorded the historic CHT peace treaty. Many other countries followed it to establish peace in their states. We are now waiting for the Nobel Peace Prize for Sheikh Hasina.

Personal life

Sheikh Hasina married to Dr. M. A. Wazed Mia in 1968. He died on 9 May 2009.[37] She has two children—Sajeeb Wazed Joy (son), and Saima Wazed Hossain Putul (daughter). Joy lives in the United States with his family, and Putul lives in Canada with her husband Khandkar M Hossain.[38]

Prime Minister Hasina is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an International network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers, whose mission is to mobilize women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women's development.


  1. "Greece declares emergency after fires kill 47". Bangladesh News. 26 August 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  2. List of Bir Uttam awardees, Gazette Notification of the Ministry of Defence, Govt. of Bangladesh, No. 8/25/D-1/72-1378 15 December 1973.
  3. The Daily Star. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2012.[dead link]
  4. Rahman, Waliur (8 January 2007). "South Asia | Is Bangladesh heading towards disaster?". BBC News. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  5. Haroon Habib, "Polls won't be fair: Hasina", The Hindu, January 4, 2007.
  6. "Bangladesh police to investigate graft allegation against former PM Hasina", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 9 April 2007.
  7. "Hasina charged in murder case", Al Jazeera, 11 April 2007.
  8. "B'desh's Hasina to stay abroad pending murder charge", Reuters, 12 April 2007.
  9. "Airlines may not carry Hasina to Dhaka", The New Nation, 17 April 2007.
  10. "Bangladeshi gov't bans former PM's return home from USA", Xinhua (People's Daily Online), 18 April 2007.
  11. "Bangladesh issues ex-PM warrant", BBC News, April 22, 2007.
  12. "Murder warrant issued against Bangladesh ex-leader Hasina as she prepares to return home", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 22 April 2007.
  13. "Bangladesh's ex-leader Sheikh Hasina barred from boarding plane home", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 22 April 2007.
  14. "Hasina: I will fight charges", Al Jazeera, 23 April 2007.
  15. "Opposition welcomes B'desh U-turn", BBC News, 26 April 2007.
  16. Haroon Habib, "Sheikh Hasina returns home", The Hindu, 7 May 2007.
  17. "Former Bangladeshi PM arrested: Reports", Reuters (Australian Broadcasting Corporation News Online), 16 July 2007, accessed 16 July 2007.
  18. "Security stepped up after arrest of ex-Bangladesh prime minister on extortion charges", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 17 July 2007.
  19. "Hasina, Khaleda given 7 days for wealth report", The Daily Star, 18 July 2007, Vol. 5 Num 1113.
  20. BBC Report
  21. Bangladesh's ex-leader Sheikh Hasina barred from boarding plane home
  22. "UK MPs denounce Bangladesh arrest", BBC News, 23 July 2007.
  23. "Bangladesh high court orders release of Hasina on bail", Asian News International, 30 July 2007.
  24. "Ex-PM sued on corruption charges in Bangladesh", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 2 September 2007.
  25. "Detained ex-PM of Bangladesh faces new graft charges", IST, PTI (The Times of India), 3 September 2007.
  26. "Bangladesh court indicts Hasina, two others in extortion case", IST, PTI (Times of India), January 13, 2008.
  27. "Bangladesh court quashes Hasina's trial", Press Trust of India (The Hindu), 6 February 2008.
  28. "Bangladesh Caretaker Government Frees Former PM Hasina", Steve Herman (VoA), 11 June 2008.
  29. "Sheikh Hasina goes to US for medical treatment"
  30. " Hasina wants to return end of Sept: doctor". Retrieved 21 August 2008.
  31. "Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has returned to the country to lead her party in general elections, scheduled for December"
  32. "Bangladesh's former prime minister Sheikh Hasina formally launched on ... her party's election manifesto at a news conference on Friday"
  33. "Hasina wins Bangladesh landslide"
  34. "चण्डीगढ़,पंजाब और हरियाणा में घना कोहरा छा&#2". Samay Live. 10 January 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  35. "এরশাদের ভারতপ্রেম রাজনীতিতে নতুন ছক!". Banglanews24. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  36. "JS prays for Hasina's Nobel: Spends 90 mins in praising her peace efforts", The Daily Star (Bangladesh), 9 December 2010,, retrieved 17 January 2012
  37. Biography from Britannica Online
  38. Dhaka Court Orders Arrest of Hasina's Sister, Arab News, 25 October 2007.