Fifty-three years ago, then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger mocked Bangladesh stating it was a “bottomless basket case”. Twenty years ago, Bangladesh topped Transparency International’s list of most-corrupt nations thrice. During 2001-2006, Bangladesh was seen by international media as a country plagued by corruption and terrorism. Industrial production was threatened due to acute power shortage which left even the country’s capital city Dhaka – almost 15 hours in darkness due to load-shedding. Situation was so intense that many analysts in the world were projecting Bangladesh as a “nearly Failed State”. In this catastrophic situation, the 2006 general election was postponed indefinitely as the then ruling party – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) made attempts of holding an engineered election by placing their party activists in key positions, including the Chief Election Commissioner and head of election-time ‘Caretaker government’. For the subsequent two years, Bangladesh was governed by a military-backed interim government. Sheikh Hasina was arrested on false charges and imprisoned.
Things started moving in a positive direction when the international community continued exerting pressure on the ‘Caretaker government’ for holding national elections and handing over power to an elected government. Subsequently, general election was held in December 2008, where Awami League, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina won a landslide victory. Following the assumption of office as the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina had a series of challenges – a herculean task to salvage the country from socio-economic challenges. During the last 14 years, she has shown her magnanimous leadership quality in transforming an economically struggled Bangladesh into an economic rising star. Bangladesh has already been promoted to the status of developing nation from the previous status of underdeveloped country. Hundreds and thousands of new jobs have been created, while the country is now witnessing tremendous infrastructural development that connects Bangladesh with nations in the region and beyond.
Under the statesmanship of Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh’s economy is steadily prospering, while it is expected that by 2030 the country’s GDP growth will subside most of the South Asian and Southeast Asian nations. Bangladesh’s growing economic strength is evident from its per capita income and per capita GDP growth that is soaring past even big neighbor India. In 2013, Bangladesh’s per capita income of US$783 was half of India; now it is US$125 more than India and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the gap will further widen in the next three years.
Statistics indices of both economic and human development, especially in those related to female empowerment, Bangladesh is ahead of India and far ahead of Pakistan.
Sheikh Hasina’s government can claim credit for success in all spheres of governance which is not top-down. The Nikkei Recovery Index recently rated Bangladesh’s management of the COVID pandemic as the best in south Asia and fifth in the world, with Pakistan and India on the 23rd and 70th spot respectively.
Bangladesh already is a prime destination for foreign investment as the country offers political stability, peaceful atmosphere and investor-friendly economic benefits, with the goal of turning Bangladesh into the land of infinite possibility. A large number of foreign investors and industrial giants from China in particular are gradually switching their investments and industrial projects to Bangladesh, which also is helping in creating thousands of job opportunities. The government has already chalked-out a plan for starting a few more special economic zones, mainly for the foreign investors. Especially following the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, which took place last year, special economic zones in the southern districts in the country will emerge as hotspots of foreign investments.
Massive infrastructural projects are seen in almost everywhere in the country, while cities are already getting elevated expressways, metro rails, under-river tunnel roads, flyovers, hospitals, educational institutes, parks (including eco parks) etcetera.
The picture of rural Bangladesh is also changing fast with a significant portion of the rural population enjoying access to socio-economic prospects, education, healthcare and empowerment of women. Hundreds and thousands of people in the rural areas are already brought under the government’s special programs that provide them a house and source of earnings. They also are enjoying access to digital communication systems, which also results in millions of rural dwellers having their own smartphones and computers. According to economic forecasts, by 2026 Bangladesh will become the leading economy in South Asia and by 2030 the country’s economic progress will cross many of the Asian nations.
Bangladesh’s dependence on foreign aid has been significantly decreasing while our foreign exchange earnings are on steady rise. We are proudly proclaiming to have become a development paragon – a great miracle to the world. Bangladesh is the fastest growing economy and is already a role model to many nations. Meanwhile, there has been tremendous improvement in the average standard of living of the citizens.
According to experts, Bangladesh’s growth rests on three pillars: exports, social progress and fiscal prudence. Between 2011 and 2019, Bangladesh’s export earnings grew at 8.6 percent year-on-year, compared to the world average of 0.4 percent. The success is largely due to political stability in the country as well putting special emphasis on products, such as apparels, pharmaceuticals, ceramic items etcetera.
Sheikh Hasina’s service to humanity
Back in 2017, when Rohingyas were forced to flee Myanmar amid genocide, Sheikh Hasina did not hesitate in opening Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar thus enabling over 1.20 million Rohingyas to take temporary shelter in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been making frantic efforts in compelling Myanmar in taking-back this huge size of Rohingyas. For a developing country like Bangladesh hosting over 1.20 Rohingyas for years is surely an extremely challenging task especially when the Western countries including the United Nations have significantly reduced aid which is essentially needed to provide food and other basics to over 1.20 million Rohingyas. Can Bangladesh expect from the generous rulers of the Islamic nations in the Middle East substantial donation from their Zakat fund to ensure food and basics for the persecuted Rohingyas?
Sheikh Hasina’s service to Islam
Few years ago, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated a grand project to establish 564 model mosques in Bangladesh. According to Bangladesh government sources, these model mosques include air conditioned facilities for offering salat, while there are facilities such as, providing training and orientation to Haji pilgrims, Imam training center, Islamic research center and library, pre-primary education and Quran learning arrangement, conference room for Islamic cultural activities and Islamic dawah, Islamic books sale center, and boarding facility for local and foreign guests.
On June 10, 2021, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the first phase of 50 model mosques, out of total 564, simultaneously across the country, aimed at preaching the true messages of Islam to eliminate religious misconceptions.
The purpose of the project is publicity of Islamic brotherhood and its values as well as disseminating the essence of Islam against extremism and militancy.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been putting emphasis on Islamic education, while she also is upholding the policy of strengthening existing relations with every country in the Middle East and the Islamic world.
Sheikh Hasina proves, Islam emphasizes empowerment of women
While anti-Islam forces and a section of the Western societies are wrongly perceiving Islam as a religion that does not value empowerment of women, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been proving them wrong by granting free education up to higher secondary level to the girls while women are increasingly participating in country’s politics, civil-military administration, judiciary, law enforcement agencies and foreign service.
While upholding Islamic values, a devoted Muslim Sheikh Hasina is also ensuring rights of religious minorities in the country.
Bangladesh is heading towards the next general election, which is expected to be held in January 2024. At this junction, Muslims around the world are urged to pray for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s good health and long life. May Allah bless every Muslim around the world, and on this auspicious month of Sha’ban, I am extending my salaam and good wishes to my Muslim brothers and sisters.