The Political Image of Sheikh Hasina


Photo source: Hindustan Times

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Sheikh Hasina’s victory for the fourth consecutive term in the Bangladesh election shows an important development for Bangladesh and the entire region. 

Her victory was highly expected in the 2024 election where opposition was tactically cornered. Despite several controversies related to the election machinery of Bangladesh, it is undeniable that Sheikh Hasina has emerged as an influential democratic leader in the given time, due to her back to back political victories. Hasina’s rule has redefined a lot of things in Bangladesh.

Although the United States raised many issues against Sheikh Hasina and her autocratic rule, there is a more significant consensus in the international community that the transformation of Bangladesh from a fanatic Islamic nation to a secular one became possible under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. However, the opposition in Bangladesh blames Hasina for winning the elections at gunpoint. This time, the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the election on the issue of the caretaker government. The opposition also alleges Hasina for her policy of eliminating political opponents in the name of the rule of law and using state machinery to win elections.

The status of Hasina in Bangladesh is significant, considering the country’s troubled history. In her rule, Sheikh Hasina has maintained the separation of power and helped in the evolving power balance in the country, particularly between the civil administration and the army. Bangladesh knows the consequences of the rules of Jiaur Rahman, HM Ershad, and others. Hasina has succeeded in evolving a more significant consensus between the armed forces and the civil administration. Her good standing in the military can be vouched with the fact that there had been a military coup attempt in 2011 by rebelling army officers to establish Islamic law in Bangladesh, which was eventually foiled by the Bangladeshi army.

However, opposition in Bangladesh terms the relationship between the Awami League and the Bangladeshi army as a nexus and Hasina’s  strategy to capture power in successive elections. That’s why Sheikh Hasina made the status of her father, Mujibar Rahman, larger than that of the nation. Her government not only compelled the country to display gratitude to Mujibar Rahman but also utilised the judiciary to sentence top brass leaders of the opposition for their involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Mujibar Rahman.

It is also true that Bangladesh belongs to the group of stable Islamic nations in the region. With time, the country has evolved as per the prerogatives of a modern democracy that ensures economic growth, social security and a strategic mission and vision. Sheikh Hasina deserves credit for many things, as many of her policies are delivering for Bangladesh. Apart from the internal dynamics, Bangladesh holds a strategically important position in the region.

When it comes to its dynamics with India, Bangladeshi infiltration has already changed the demographic profile in the northeastern states of India and, more particularly, those states that share international borders with Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Bangladesh’s government has taken no steps to restrict this during Sheikh Hasina’s rule. Also, the successive regimes of India, who treated Hasina as a friend, have not taken any steps to make Bangladesh’s regime heed the legitimate concerns of the northeastern states.

Contrary to Hasina’s liberal image, a concern has become more considerable regarding religious intolerance and atrocities against minorities in Bangladesh.

For some time, disturbing trends too came to light, which exposed some hypocrisy of Sheikh Hasina and her so-called secular agenda. There are numerous cases of Muslims grabbing the lands of people belonging to the Hindu community in Bangladesh. So, her liberal and secular political image has come into question again in a flourishing democracy.

As per international reports, more than two lakh Hindus leave Bangladesh every year. Things have become more challenging for them at a time when religious appeasement has become the most effective tool to harness political leverage in Bangladesh. On the other hand, Bangladesh has become one of the hubs of the illegal narcotics trade. The illegal drug rackets are running business between Myanmar and Bangladesh, using the north-eastern states of India as the transit point. This is a major cause of concern for the region.

Apart from all this, the more viable challenge for India is the increasing presence of China in Bangladesh. Beijing has already made huge investments in Bangladesh as part of its policy to create strategic bases to sabotage India’s interests. After her victory, Hasina has given the message that her government will keep all alternatives open in framing Bangladesh’s foreign policy.


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