Hasina was born in Tungipara, East Pakistan, on 28 September 1947. Her father was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father and the first President of Bangladesh. Her mother was Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib. She has said in many interviews that she had grown up in fear due to her father’s political works. She married physicist M. A. Wazed Miah in 1968, who was chosen for her by her father. During the peak of violence during the 1970 Pakistani general election, as well as her father’s arrest, she had lived in refuge with her grandmother. She was active in the student politics of the University of Dhaka.
Hasina was not in Bangladesh when her father, and most of her family, were assassinated on 15 August 1975 during a military coup d’état by renegade officers of the Bangladesh Army. She was in West Germany with her husband, M. A. Wazed Miah, who was working as a nuclear physicist. She moved to New Delhi in late 1975, having been granted asylum by India. Her son, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, studied at Indian boarding schools. During her time in India, Hasina was not involved in politics, but became close friends with Suvra Mukherjee, wife of the future Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.
Hasina was barred from returning to Bangladesh until after she was elected to lead the Awami League on 16 February 1981, and arrived home on 17 May 1981.
Democratic backsliding in Bangladesh
Under her tenure as Prime Minister, Bangladesh has experienced democratic backsliding. The Human Rights Watch documented widespread enforced disappearances under her government and extrajudicial killings have become established. Many politicians and journalists have been systematically and judicially punished for challenging her views. In 2021, the US has raised questions over the legitimacy of the Sheikh Hasina government over three years after the general elections. Reporters Without Borders in 2021 characterized sheikh Hasina as a predator for curbing press freedom in Bangladesh since 2014. In 2014, she was re-elected for a third term in an election that was boycotted by the BNP and criticized by international observers. She won fourth term in 2018, following an election marred with violence and criticized by the opposition as being rigged.
Sheikh Hasina has been considered one of the most powerful women in the world in several rankings.
Controversies of Sheikh Hasina’ Govt.
The Padma Bridge graft scandal was a political incident in Bangladesh that involved the ruling Awami League government that allegedly sought, in exchange for the awarding of the construction contract, a large amount of money from the Canadian construction company SNC-Lavalin. The allegations were subsequently found to be false and without merit, and a Canadian court subsequently dismissed the case.
As a result of the allegations, The World Bank pulled out of a project to provide funding for the Padma Bridge, citing corruption concerns, cancelling US$1.2 billion of credit for the 6 km-long (four miles) road-rail bridge over the Padma River. One of the individuals implicated was Minister of Communications Syed Abul Hossain who subsequently resigned and was later acquitted of any wrongdoing. On 11 July 2012, BNP General-Secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the Awami League government should make public a letter sent by the World Bank, wherein the Bank brought graft charges against Hasina and three other figures. On 17 January 2016, Hasina stated that a managing director of a bank in the United States provoked the World Bank to cancel the loan.
In a speech in parliament,
On 24 January 2017 Prime Minister Hasina blamed Muhammad Yunus for the World Bank’s pulling out of the project. According to her, Yunus lobbied with the former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to persuade the World Bank to terminate the loan. On 10 February 2017, a justice of the Superior Court of Ontario dismissed the bribery-conspiracy case for lack of any evidence.
In 2018, Hasina’s government passed the controversial Digital Security Act, 2018, under which any criticism deemed inappropriate by the government over the internet or any other media could be punished by prison terms of various degrees. This was heavily criticised both domestically and internationally for suppressing people’s freedom of speech, as well as undermining press freedom in Bangladesh.