On the 28th of September, a nation comes together to celebrate not only the birthday of a remarkable leader but also the embodiment of a legacy that has shaped the destiny of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, has not only carried forward her father's legacy but also etched her name in history as a transformative figure in the country's development.
Born into a family with a profound commitment to the cause of Bangladesh's liberation, Sheikh Hasina's journey was intrinsically bound with the struggle for independence. She grew up witnessing her father's relentless efforts to secure the rights and dignity of the Bengali people. The tragedy that befell her family on August 15, 1975, when her father and most of her family members were assassinated, marked an indelible turning point in her life. Sheikh Hasina's perseverance in the face of personal tragedy is a testament to her unwavering commitment to her father's vision for Bangladesh - a vision of a democratic, just, and progressive nation.
In 1981, Sheikh Hasina's return to Bangladesh from exile marked a pivotal moment in the nation's history. Having spent years in exile following the tragic assassination of her father, she emerged as a beacon of hope for a fragile Awami League. Stepping onto the soil of her homeland, she carried with her the weight of her family's legacy and the aspirations of a nation longing for progress. Her decision to take up the leadership of the Awami League showcased her unwavering commitment to continue the unfinished work of her father and to guide the party toward revitalization. This act of courage and determination not only revitalized the party but also galvanized a new generation of leaders, enabling the Awami League to rebuild its foundation and contribute to shaping the democratic landscape of Bangladesh.
Upon her return to Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina embarked on a formidable battle against military rule, determined to restore democracy to a nation that had been grappling with authoritarianism. Her resolute stance against the military regime showcased her unwavering commitment to upholding the principles of freedom and justice that her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had championed. Undeterred by threats and challenges, she fearlessly led protests, galvanizing support from the masses and rallying them behind the cause of democracy. Her unwavering determination and persistence eventually led to the downfall of the military regime, marking a triumph not only for her but for the ideals of democratic governance and human rights. Sheikh Hasina's fight against military rule stands as a testament to her indomitable spirit and her relentless pursuit of a democratic Bangladesh.
Stepping into her father's shoes was no easy task, but Sheikh Hasina did so with remarkable determination. She took on the mantle of leadership, guided by her father's ideals of social justice, secularism, and economic progress. Her ability to navigate through the complexities of politics while holding onto the core values of the Liberation War has been awe-inspiring. Under her leadership, the Awami League party has remained committed to building a democratic and inclusive society, drawing inspiration from Bangabandhu's dream of a prosperous Bangladesh. Her dedication to preserving the nation's history are emblematic of her unyielding resolve to honor her father's legacy.
Sheikh Hasina's impact on Bangladesh's development landscape has been monumental. Her tenure as the Prime Minister, spanning multiple terms, has seen the country's transformation from a struggling nation to a global example of progress and resilience. Her vision for development has focused on a holistic approach that encompasses economic growth, poverty reduction, education, healthcare, and women's empowerment.
The country's economic growth has been substantial under her leadership, with sectors like textiles, agriculture, and manufacturing thriving. Bangladesh's achievement in lifting millions out of poverty and achieving significant improvements in health and education indicators reflects her commitment to inclusive development.
Under Sheikh Hasina's visionary leadership, Bangladesh has witnessed a remarkable era of continuous infrastructure development, with transformative projects that have reshaped the nation's landscape. The completion of monumental endeavors like the Padma Bridge, Metro Rail, and the underwater tunnel in the Karnaphuli River stands as a testament to her unwavering commitment to modernizing the country's infrastructure. These projects, once considered ambitious dreams, have become tangible symbols of progress, connectivity, and economic growth. Sheikh Hasina's government has displayed a strong resolve to invest in strategic infrastructure that not only enhances transportation networks but also facilitates trade, industry, and overall development. Through her dedication to turning these visionary projects into realities, Sheikh Hasina has propelled Bangladesh onto a trajectory of dynamic growth, showcasing her determination to create a more prosperous and interconnected future for the nation.
Sheikh Hasina's leadership also underscores her emphasis on women's empowerment and environmental sustainability. Initiatives such as the National Women Development Policy have aimed at breaking down barriers and promoting gender equality. Moreover, her dedication to combating climate change has led to global recognition, as she advocates for more sustainable practices to safeguard Bangladesh's vulnerable landscape.
Sheikh Hasina's role in ensuring social justice in Bangladesh is a testament to her unwavering commitment to the ideals of her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As the Prime Minister of the country, she has consistently championed policies and initiatives that aim to bridge socioeconomic disparities and uplift marginalized communities. Her administration's focus on poverty reduction, healthcare access, and education opportunities has led to tangible improvements in the lives of countless citizens. Through measures like the National Social Security Strategy and various poverty alleviation programs, she has worked to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared equitably among all strata of society. Furthermore, her commitment to women's empowerment, anti-discrimination legislation, and inclusive development programs underscores her dedication to creating a more just and equitable society for all Bangladeshis.
Sheikh Hasina's unwavering determination to establish a secular Bangladesh, echoing the footsteps of her revered father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, stands as a cornerstone of her leadership. Embracing the ideals of religious tolerance and inclusivity, she has consistently advocated for a society where individuals of all faiths can coexist harmoniously. Her commitment to upholding the secular principles enshrined in Bangladesh's constitution is evident in her policies and actions, which prioritize the separation of religion from the affairs of the state. Sheikh Hasina's resolute stance against extremism and her efforts to promote interfaith dialogue underscore her dedication to fostering a nation where diversity is celebrated, and citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of discrimination. In walking the path laid out by her father, she has not only preserved his legacy but also reinforced the very essence of Bangladesh's identity as a secular and pluralistic nation.
As Sheikh Hasina celebrates her birthday, the nation celebrates her life's journey - a journey of resilience, sacrifice, and transformation. Carrying the legacy of her father, she has steered Bangladesh towards a future that resonates with his ideals. Her unwavering commitment to justice, democracy, and development has positioned her as a guiding light not only for her country but also for leaders across the world.
In her story, we find the essence of a daughter's love for her father, a leader's dedication to her nation, and a visionary's commitment to shaping a brighter future. As the nation honors Sheikh Hasina on her birthday, it also honors the legacy that she continues to build upon, ensuring that the sacrifices of the past shape the promise of tomorrow.
Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.