Hasina Wazed, Sheikh

Hasina Wazed, Sheikh
▪ 1997

      Following two years of political tumult, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, president of the Awami League, was elected prime minister of Bangladesh on June 12, 1996. Her government was expected to bring political stability and renewed economic vitality to the 25-year-old country.

      Hasina was born on Sept. 28, 1947, in the village of Tungipara. She was the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh to independence from Pakistan in 1971 and instilled in his daughter a loyalty to her country and a dedication to improving Bangladeshi quality of life.

      Hasina was married in 1968 to M.A. Wazed Miah, an eminent Bangladeshi scientist. While at the University of Dhaka in the late 1960s, she was active in politics and served as her father's political liaison while he was imprisoned by Pakistani rulers. Hasina and other members of her family were also forced into captivity briefly in 1971 after they participated in an uprising during the liberation war.

      On Aug. 15, 1975, following Bangladesh's freedom from Pakistani leadership, Hasina's father, mother, and three brothers were assassinated in their home by Bangladeshi military officers. Hasina, who was out of the country at the time, spent six years in exile. During this time she was elected to the leadership of the Awami League, the largest political organization in Bangladesh.

      On her return home in 1981, Hasina immersed herself in the fight for democracy, an activity that resulted in her being placed under numerous house arrests. She ultimately secured a seat as leader of the opposition in Parliament, where she opposed the violence of military rule and initiated measures to increase basic human rights. In December 1990 the last military leader of Bangladesh, Lieut. Gen. Hossain Mohammad Ershad, resigned in disgrace following an ultimatum that was issued by Hasina and supported by the Bangladeshi people.

      The first free general election in Bangladesh in 16 years was held in 1991. Hasina failed to obtain a majority in Parliament, and governing power was granted to her opponent Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The Awami League challenged the BNP with accusations of dishonesty, and they, along with other opposition parties, boycotted Parliament, again causing violent demonstrations and political chaos. The Awami League demanded the institution of a permanent, democratic election system free from corruption. Although the BNP government denied allegations of vote fraud, Zia succumbed to demands that she relinquish her office to a nonparty caretaker government that would oversee a new election. Hasina, who insisted on being addressed as "sir," was then elected to replace Prime Minister Zia.

      (KATHERINE I. GORDON)

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▪ prime minister of Bangladesh
born Sept. 28, 1947, Tungipara, India [now in Bangladesh]

      Bengali politician and leader of the Awami League political party, who as prime minister of Bangladesh (1996–2001; 2009–) has faced increasing political unrest and strong opposition from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

      Hasina was the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Rahman, Mujibur), the principal orchestrator of Bangladesh's separation from Pakistan in 1971. In 1968 she married M.A. Wazed Miah, an eminent Bengali scientist. While at the University of Dhaka in the late 1960s, she was active in politics and served as her father's political liaison during his imprisonment by the Pakistani government. Hasina and other members of her family also were detained, briefly in 1971 for their participation in an uprising during the war of liberation that ultimately led to Bangladesh's independence.

      On Aug. 15, 1975, Hasina's father (who had just a few months earlier become president of Bangladesh), mother, and three brothers were assassinated in their home by several military officers. Hasina, who was out of the country when the killings occurred, subsequently spent six years in exile. During that time she was elected to the leadership of the Awami League, which had been founded by her father and had since become the largest political organization in Bangladesh.

      On her return home in 1981, Hasina became a prominent and outspoken advocate of democracy, which resulted in her placement under house arrest on numerous occasions. She ultimately secured a seat as leader of the opposition in the parliament, where she condemned the violence of military rule and initiated measures to secure basic human rights for all citizens. In December 1990 the last military leader of Bangladesh, Lieut. Gen. Hussain Mohammad Ershad, resigned in response to an ultimatum issued by Hasina and broadly supported by the people of Bangladesh.

      In 1991—in the first free general election to be held in Bangladesh in 16 years—Hasina failed to obtain a majority in the parliament, and governing power passed to her opponent Khaleda Zia, leader of the BNP. Hasina and her followers accused the BNP of dishonesty during the election, and the Awami League, along with other opposition parties, boycotted the parliament. This act of defiant nonparticipation sparked violent demonstrations and plunged the country into a state of political turmoil. Although the BNP government denied all allegations of vote fraud, Khaleda succumbed to demands that she relinquish her office to a nonparty caretaker government that would oversee a new election. Hasina was elected prime minister in June 1996.

      Although the economy of Bangladesh grew steadily during Hasina's tenure as prime minister, the country remained in political disarray. The BNP organized rallies and strikes, which often turned violent, while boycotts of parliamentary proceedings severely undermined the functionality of the government. Despite such adversity, Hasina remained in office, and in 2001 she became the first prime minister since independence to complete a full five-year term. The ensuing election was marred by further unrest, as Khaleda led an opposition alliance that solidly defeated Hasina. Once again Hasina and the Awami League protested the outcome of the election, claiming that the results had been fixed. This time, however, their protests were futile.

      Following Khaleda's return to power, Hasina continued her work with the Awami League in what remained a highly volatile political atmosphere. In 2004 she sustained minor injuries during a grenade attack at a political rally. In 2007—after a military-backed interim government had declared a state of emergency and canceled parliamentary elections—Hasina was arrested on charges of extortion, alleged to have taken place during her tenure as prime minister. Similarly, Khaleda was arrested on charges of corruption. Both were imprisoned. Hasina was released from jail in June 2008 and Khaleda in September. Later that year the state of emergency was lifted, and general elections were scheduled for December 29. Running opposite Khaleda and the BNP, Hasina and the Awami League swept a solid majority into the parliament. Hasina was sworn in as prime minister in January 2009.

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Universalium. 2010.

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