Like most other prominent women leaders of South Asia, 57-year old Sheikh Hasina’s political history is closely interwoven with her personal history.
The daughter of the creator of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibhur Rehman, she was active in student politics in the 1960s and was the go between her father and students and political leaders during her father’s imprisonment in the 1960s.
Her political and personal destiny was irrevocably altered on the fateful night of February 15, 1975, when her father and her entire family including her mother and three brothers were assassinated in a coup d’etat by a section of the army.
Sheikh Hasina escaped her family’s fate as she was in Germany at that time. She was forced to remain in exile for the next six years and returned to her country in 1981 as president of her father’s Awami League. She received a tumultuous welcome from millions of people on her arrival, as she vowed to fight for the restoration of democracy in her country.
She spent the next several years in and out of prison, and was the leader of the opposition in the Bangladesh in 1986-97 and 1991-93.
Her crowning moment came in 1996 when she successfully led her Awami League to victory in the parliamentary elections of 1996. She became the first democratically elected prime minister of Bangladesh to serve a full five-year term.
Pandering to development agenda
During her tenure, her government undertook several poverty alleviation and rural development schemes. Her contribution to promoting peace and harmony in her country was internationally acknowledged.
Sheikh Hasina received the UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize for 1998 for her role in bringing peace by resolving the longstanding ethnic problem in the Chittagong Hill tracts region of Bangladesh and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. She was also awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Award for 1998 (Oslo, Norway) for her contribution towards promotion of communal understanding, religious harmony, non-violence and growth of democracy in Bangladesh.
In 2001, Sheikh Hasina handed power to a caretaker government. In the elections that followed, her main political opponent Begum Khalida Zia’s BNP came into power and Sheikh Hasina became the leader of the opposition.
* Place & Date of Birth: Tungipara, Gopalganj, 28 September 1947
* Marital Status: Married; has one son & one daughter
* Education: BA Dhaka University 1973.
* Special Interest: Literature, Reading and social work
* Publications: The Origin of Autocracy, The Elimination of Poverty: Some Thoughts, People and democracy, Development for the Masses. Democracy under threat & violation of Humanity.
*Joined politics during school days.
*Elected Chief of the Student Union, Government Intermediate College for Women in 1966. Participated in the mass movement of 1969. Imprisoned by the Pakistan occupation army along with her mother and other members of her family during the War of Liberation in 1971
* August 15, 1975: army officers assassinated the Father of the Nation and the elected Head of State, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with his wife, three sons and all the residents of his house. Sheikh Hasina and her only sister Sheikh Rehana survived the carnage as they were then visiting West Germany.
* Forced to live in exile till 1981 because of the restriction put on her by General Ziaur Rahman.
* President Bangladesh Awami League (1981-till date)
* Leader of the Opposition, Bangladesh parliament (1986- 87) (1991-93) (2001- till date
* Took oath as Prime Minister of Bangladesh on June 23, 1996. After successfully completing five years in the office, handed over power to caretaker government on July 15, 2001