Sheikh Hasina is Building a Smart Bangladesh Following the Vision of Bangabandhu

Hiren Pandit: The Awami League, founded by the leadership of Maulana Bhasani as the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League on June 23, 1949, in Tikatuli, Dhaka, celebrated its 75th founding anniversary. The party dropped the word “Muslim” from its name six years after its debut to promote secularism and non-sectarianism. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged as the leader of the Awami League following a series of leadership transitions, and the party made significant progress through movements such as the 1952 language movement and the 1954 United Front elections. 1966, the party’s six-point movement was followed by the Agartala conspiracy case, in which Sheikh Mujib was the primary accused.

However, a popular uprising in 1969 led to the withdrawal of the case and the release of political prisoners, resulting in Sheikh Mujibur Rahman being bestowed with the title “Bangabandhu.” This marked a significant shift in East Pakistan’s influence within Pakistani politics, culminating in a resounding victory for the Awami League in the 1970 elections. However, beginning with the conspiracy to retain power, the sequence of events includes Bangabandhu’s historic speech on March 7, Operation Searchlight on March 25, Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence on March 26, and the start of the liberation war.

Bangladesh emerged as an independent state on December 16, 1971, with Bangabandhu leading the reconstruction effort. However, domestic and international groups conspired to bring the country back under Pakistani influence through the assassination of Bangabandhu on August 15, the seizure of power, the killing of four national leaders in jail, and the establishment of a military dictatorship. Sheikh Hasina was elected president of the party conference in 1981, and six years later, she returned to the country and took charge of the Awami League. Political chaos ensued after the assassination of military ruler Ziaur Rahman. Chief of Army Staff Ershad then seized power, leading to another period of military rule. The divided Awami League was later restored under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. Under her guidance, the Awami League has been in power for more than four decades, holding power five times while engaging in movements and struggles to establish democracy in the country.

Out of 75 years, the Awami League has been excluded from state power for nearly 50 years, having been involved in protests and agitations. After being out of control for twenty-one years, the Awami League returned to power in 1996. Since Bangladesh’s independence, Bangabandhu’s government ruled for three and a half years, followed by Sheikh Hasina’s five-year leadership in 1996. The Awami League has been in power for 16 and a half consecutive years.

The President of the Awami League and Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has transformed Bangladesh into a developing country and has become a global role model for economic development. Her remarkable success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic is genuinely admirable. Despite the numerous challenges the Ministry of Health faces, her leadership, foresight, talent, and wisdom have been instrumental in dealing with the crisis. No one is left hungry under the rule of the Awami League. However, it’s important to remember that no political power lasts forever. It’s crucial to assess whether the party’s organizational strength and structure are prepared to handle the challenges posed by the opposition. It’s time to evaluate the party’s seasoned leaders.

Bangabandhu turned the Awami League into a prominent grassroots political party. His daughter, Sheikh Hasina, who took over after his tragic assassination, has emerged as a unifying symbol in times of extreme adversity. She has endured significant hardship in the fight for democracy, leading the party back to power after a 21-year hiatus. She is tirelessly working to establish democracy as an institution. Those who stood by the Awami League during Bangabandhu’s difficult times are the true Awami Leaguers. Their sacrifices have been immense and have played a significant role in combating corruption. Opportunists tend to gravitate towards power, and it’s essential to address whether they contribute to the commercialization and corruption of politics. While individuals from different parties have aligned themselves with the Awami League, true allegiance and commitment to the party’s values must be questioned. This remains a significant challenge for the Awami League as an organization. The Awami League has historically been a vocal advocate and protester against all forms of exploitation, deprivation, injustice, and oppression. This commitment to social, political, and cultural liberation has been evident since the country struggled for independence and remains a key focus for the party.

The party faces numerous challenges as it enters its fourth consecutive term in power. One major hurdle is to strengthen the party’s fundamental principles. Despite advocating for non-communal politics, the influence of leaders and workers at all party levels is not evenly distributed. The biggest challenge for the Awami League is to rebrand itself at this stage for various reasons. There are concerns that the party might collapse due to negative influences, with potential attempts to weaken Sheikh Hasina. As the party celebrates its 75th anniversary, several pressing issues must be addressed. Reports in the newspapers have highlighted topics such as extortion, land grabbing, and other unfair practices carried out in the name of the party.

Despite stern warnings from Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina regarding the party’s stance and the government’s position, organizational actions have only been sporadically implemented. Not everyone is convinced that the situation is improving or changing; thus, the Awami League faces these challenges. People’s expectations have significantly increased as the party has been in power for four consecutive terms. The Awami League must address these concerns. It is essential to emphasize the government’s development initiatives and the benefits they provide to all citizens, particularly programs to improve people’s welfare.

Addressing issues such as money laundering, strengthening the vulnerable banking system, countering both domestic and foreign propaganda, handling international pressure, resolving internal conflicts, controlling price hikes in commodities, bridging the gap between leaders and workers, and addressing alleged conspiracies within the administration and other arenas are among the numerous complaints. While the government is associated with the Awami League, the administration does not mirror this connection. According to media reports, former bureaucrats, followed by politicians, top the list of individuals who shifted wealth out of the country. It is imperative to exercise caution when dealing with these matters.

Eliminating the endless disparity between the rich and the poor, as the number of millionaires in the country has increased, the number of people struggling to make ends meet is also rising due to the increase in commodity prices. As unprecedented development occurs, the number of poor families is also increasing. Everyone should think about how to reduce this disparity. Our liberation war was fought to establish a non-discrimination state. Implementing the spirit of liberation war becomes difficult by increasing or perpetuating discrimination. Awami League, the leading party in the Liberation War, is in power. Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is in charge of the Prime Minister. She continues relentlessly. Awami League’s founding anniversary will be celebrated on June 23 through various programs nationwide.

But when Awami League is in power, people’s fortunes improve. The history of this 75 years from the foundation of this party bears testimony to that fact. Now, the father of the nation, Bangabandhu’s daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is in power for the fifth time. Awami League, one of the prominent supporters and leading party of the liberation war, must resolve the conflicts and disputes of the party’s grassroots and involve everyone in all local development activities, social service, and humanitarian work.

It will speed up development work locally, and the work quality will also improve. On the other hand, the party leaders’ and workers’ involvement and friendship with ordinary people will increase, and the party and the government’s popularity will grow. However, due to the hybrid or new Awami Leaguers, opportunist leaders are entering the background, which may threaten the future and the party, which many analysts think should be considered.

However, the critical work being supervised and dealt with by the Prime Minister is genuinely commendable. Many MP Ministers cannot create such a connection with the ordinary people, especially the people of their respective constituencies. Such reports are sometimes seen in the media. Analysts also suggest clarifying whether the hybrid and new Awami Leaguers will work or give the responsibility to the quitters.

“Many opportunists who have politicized Bangabandhu’s ideals have now isolated themselves from the people. Party leaders and activists often come to the media for misdeeds, which embarrasses the government and the nation. Misguided leaders and activists need to refrain from such actions and focus on working for the welfare of the people. The Awami League and its leaders, supporters, and the country’s youth should uphold the ideals of the Bengali Father of the Nation. They should work selflessly for a country like Bangabandhu, without arrogance, and promote harmony in Bangladesh by ensuring the peaceful coexistence of people of all religions without discrimination. All leaders and workers must work with honesty, devotion, a hardworking and benevolent attitude, compassion, sympathy, selflessness, and courage. Bangabandhu himself was idealistic, and the liberation of Bengal’s exploited and oppressed people was his main goal and ideal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has worked tirelessly in the last sixteen years to lead the country towards development and achieve Vision 2041 or Smart Bangladesh after attaining Vision 2021. She has mentioned in her speeches on different occasions that criminals should be brought under the law. It has become necessary to address the mischief of some nefarious people who personally identify and book the beneficiaries. Many good works of the Prime Minister and her government are being suppressed by self-interested people.”

The current Awami League government has been focusing on infrastructure development and improving civic services to make them easily accessible to the people. The government has strict directives from the head of state to ensure these developments. The improvement in communication systems and road infrastructure in villages and remote areas has significantly improved living conditions and livelihoods for the people. Sheikh Hasina envisions propelling the country forward in the spirit of the liberation war and fostering development for its people. One of the main objectives is to commemorate the history of the liberation war and honor Bangabandhu’s role in it by giving him the respect he deserves. The government is committed to building a progressive, democratic, and non-communal Bangladesh, free from hunger and poverty.

The vision for a Smart Bangladesh includes initiatives such as Smart citizens, a Smart Economy, a Smart Government, and a Smart Society. Additionally, plans have been made for the country’s development up to the year 2100, emphasizing leveraging technology to benefit all citizens. The goal is to create a cost-effective, sustainable, intellectual, knowledge-based, and innovative Bangladesh by 2041, focusing on implementing smart solutions in healthcare, transportation, utilities, urban administration, public safety, agriculture, internet connectivity, and disaster management. Under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership as Prime Minister for over 16 years, Bangladesh has managed to steer clear of major economic crises affecting other countries during the current global financial crisis. Her strong economic policies have helped safeguard the well-being of the country’s 170 million people during this challenging time.

Hiren Pandit is an essayist, researcher and columnist.

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