When it comes to evaluating Sheikh Hasina’s achievement as the premier and a leader, what strikes me most is her courage and humanity. A classic example of it is her Rohingya policy. Everyone knows that Rohingyas today are the most persecuted people on earth and there is no lack of countries and organisations to mourn for them. But how many have come forward to help the Rohingya at risk to themselves? Despite being a signatory to the UN Convention relating to the status of refugees, Sheikh Hasina has stood by them simply out of a sense of humanity. The refugee situation of one crore people of Bangladesh during the Liberation War in 1971 and the displacement and political exiles of her own family after the August Tragedy in 1975 have prompted Sheikh Hasina to be on the Rohingya’s side in such a humanitarian catastrophe of enormous proportions. While millions of Rohingyas were in frantic flight from the marauding Burmese forces to seek refuge in fear of their life and other countries sealing their border were watching the horrific images of ethnic cleansing on the satellite, Bangladesh came to save their life by opening the border and welcoming the Rohingya influx. Leading Dutch magazine the Diplomat has rightly honoured Sheikh Hasina with the title 'The Mother of Humanity'.
Sheikh Hasina’s courage and humanity have also been exemplified in her dealing with the crisis of COVID-19 pandemic. While people like the Queen of the UK Elizabeth II, her son Prince Charles, their Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his beloved wife Sophie Gregoire themselves contracted COVID-19 ; the Spanish Princess Maria Teresa succumbed to it; and the German finance minister Thomas Schaefer committed suicide over corona worries — undaunted, Sheikh Hasina tried to minimise the devastating effects of the pandemic in Bangladesh. She continued to closely monitor the situation and issued a set of directives with emphasis on prevention. When she realised that the disease could better be prevented by mass inoculation, she has worked out a national immunization plan.
Today is Sheikh Hasina’s 75th birthday. Although she is 75 in chronological age, she does not seem to feel her age. Except for 5 hours of sleep a day, she spends the rest of the time thinking of the good of her country and her people and putting it into action. Hasina could have died with her parents on that fateful August night, but she did not. Maybe, in the political relay race, nature wanted Bangabandhu’s baton to be passed on to her. Fortune smiled upon Bangladesh and we had Sheikh Hasina as the worthy heir to Bangabandhu’s politics. Long live Bangladesh. Long live Sheikh Hasina.
The writer is a columnist, fictionist, translator and the former vice chancellor, Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh.