Sheikh Hasina Wajed

(1947– ) Bangladeshi leader

Sheikh Hasina Wajed is the president and head of the Bangladesh Awami League. She is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the popular Bangladeshi leader who played a leading role in the founding of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina Wajed was one of only two members of the Mujib family to survive a bloody August 15, 1975, military coup.

Sheikh Hasina Wajed was born on September 28, 1947, in the city of Tungipara in the Gopalganj district of Bangladesh. She earned her B.A. from Dhaka University in 1973. During her school days, she became active in politics, becoming the chief of the Student Union at the Government Intermediate College for Women in 1966. She and other members of her family were imprisoned several times by Pakistan’s military government leading up to the Bangladesh liberation struggle in 1971.

After the assassination of Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Wajed was forced by the military government of General Ziaur Rahman to live in exile until 1981. In 1981 she became the president of the Bangladesh Awami League.

With an absolute majority secured by her Awami League in the 1996 election, Wajed became the prime minister of Bangladesh on June 23. She took many measures to alleviate rural poverty, enhance per capita income, create job opportunities, and increase agricultural production. She also introduced new welfare schemes, innovative housing programs in rural areas that reversed the trend of migration from rural to urban areas.

She was the leader of the opposition in the Bangladeshi parliament from 1986 to 1987, 1991 to 1993, and 2001 forward. Under her stewardship, the Awami League boycotted parliament until June 2004, accusing the government of Khaleda Zia of corruption and nepotism.

Wajed is a fierce, enigmatic leader who believes in political parties based in the needs of the masses and in mobilizing the party cadre to win elections. Coming from a political family and with a father who was a highly revered personality in Bangladesh politics, Wajed is a political force to be reckoned with and is likely to play a prominent role in Bangladeshi politics for the foreseeable future. She is also an author of repute.

See also Bangladesh, People’s Republic of; Pakistan People’s Party.

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