Influential Saudi daily – the Arab News in a special report titled ‘Bangladesh’s dynamic leap – Sheikh Hasina’s landmark fifth term’ has applauded the magnanimous leadership of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Twitting the report, Arab News on its X account said: “#Bangladesh, once a ‘basket case,’ economically transformed under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, reaching upper-middle-income status. New #report by @OS26 &
@AdelleNaz explores achievements of world’s longest-serving female head of government”.
The report jointly penned by Oubai Shahbandar Oubai Shahbandar, a former Pentagon analyst and currently an international documentary filmmaker covering conflict zones and compelling humanitarian stories around the world; and Adelle Nazarian, a foreign policy and media analyst and consultant with over 15 years of experience in journalism says: “Sheikh Hasina, the longest-serving female head of government in the world, was sworn in for a fifth five-year term — her fourth straight term in office — following Bangladesh’s general election on Jan. 7. Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, who led the country formerly known as East Pakistan to independence in 1971, following a bloody war of liberation. Along with most of his family, Rahman was assassinated in a military coup four years later — Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana were the only survivors. During Hasina’s time in office as prime minister since 1996, Bangladesh has undergone an economic transformation deemed by international development experts to have been nothing short of miraculous”.
It further says, “Bangladesh’s geopolitical significance is on the rise, evidenced by its expanding strategic alliance with India and burgeoning economic ties with both China and the Arab world. The nation is also solidifying its position as the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments, with the EU as its primary market”.
Criticizing Biden administration’s hostile and bullying tactics, the Arab News article said, “The Biden administration is facing renewed criticism that it is making a major foreign policy mistake when it comes to a South Asian country that has emerged in recent years as a formidable economic force with ambitious aspirations.
“Many Bangladeshi officials believe Washington is unfairly singling out Bangladesh, despite the election having passed off without serious violence or interference in the Election Commission’s neutrality”.
Highlighting Bangladesh’s economic progress under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, Arab News said, “According to independent economic data, Bangladesh is on course to become an upper middle-income country (the criteria requiring at least $4,000 GDP per capita) by 2031. Bangladesh, once labeled a “basket case” by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, has roared back in the past 15 years as Hasina, the Muslim world’s only female leader, has embarked on a massive economic development program that has been hailed by development experts worldwide as a model for how developing countries can sustainably lift millions out of poverty.
“Today, the World Bank officially recognizes Bangladesh as one of the fastest-growing economies in South Asia. Experts also cite secular social changes pushed by Hasina as an important driver of Bangladesh’s economic transformation. Recently, she unveiled an ambitious development strategy and vision for the country called “Smart Bangladesh,” aimed at achieving broadbased national progress by 2041. Hasina’s transformation of Bangladesh has not been achieved without personal cost. She has survived at least 19 assassination attempts, and her administration has faced numerous terrorist attacks while cracking down on extremist ideologies, and taking action against a broad network that supports and propagates terror”.
Commenting on 19 assassination attempts on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her undeterred efforts of fighting terrorism and moving Bangladesh forward towards economic prosperity, Arab News said, “Hasina’s transformation of Bangladesh has not been achieved without personal cost. She has survived at least 19 assassination attempts, and her administration has faced numerous terrorist attacks while cracking down on extremist ideologies, and taking action against a broad network that supports and propagates terror.
“Under Hasina’s stewardship, Bangladesh has carefully navigated geopolitical waters between major and emerging powers, and grown to become an important strategic partner with India, while expanding cooperation with ASEAN states, particularly Japan and South Korea. In a bid to demonstrate transparency in governance and adherence to the core promise of improving the lives of the citizens of the eighth-largest country in the world, and one of the most densely populated, Hasina’s administration published a comprehensive 100-page manifesto that establishes specific benchmarks toward Bangladesh’s “Vision 2041,” with its goals of “cultural emancipation; non-communal, progressive, inclusive, and economically developed Smart Bangladesh”.”
It may be mentioned here that, during the 2001-2006 rule of Al Qaeda connected Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), its acting chairman Tarique Rahman had launched grenade attacks on August 21, 2004 with the heinous target of assassinating Sheikh Hasina along with other senior leaders of Awami League.
It may be mentioned here that on November 3, 2008, the US ambassador to Bangladesh, James F. Moriarty in a confidential cable (Canonical ID 08DHAKA1143_a) to the Secretary of State, seeking suspending entry of Tarique Rahman to the United State, Ambassador James F. Moriarty wrote:
“The Embassy is seeking a security advisory opinion under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Presidential Proclamation 7750, suspending the entry into the United States of Tarique Rahman (aka Tarique), born on November 20, 1967 in Bangladesh. The Embassy believes Tarique is guilty of egregious political corruption that has had a serious adverse effect on US national interests mentioned in Section 4 of the proclamation, namely the stability of democratic institutions and US foreign assistance goals. The Embassy is not seeking to apply a 212(f) finding to Tarique Rahaman’s wife, Dr. Zubaida Rahman, to their daughter, Zaima Rahman, or to his mother Begum Khaleda Zia, a former Prime Minister of Bangladesh”.
Ambassador Moriarty further wrote: “Tarique Rahman, the notorious and widely feared son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, was released on bail from prison on September 3. He departed Bangladesh to seek medical treatment in the UK on September 11. Having served as the Senior Joint Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Tarique is an extremely high profile political figure. Notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office, Tarique is a symbol of kleptocratic government and violent politics in Bangladesh.
“His release occurred despite multiple pending cases against him on charges of, inter alia, corruption, extortion, bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion. With deep political ties that reach the highest court in the land, Tarique managed to manipulate the judicial process and overcome a concerted effort by the Caretaker Government to block his bail. We believe Tarique has several passports, including a new one in which the UK issued him a visa in September. Another passport contains a five year multiple-entry B1/B2 visa (issued May 11, 2005). We suspect that passport is being held by the government”.
Accusing Tarique Rahman of accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars, Ambassador James F. Moriarty wrote:
“Tarique reportedly has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit wealth. There are multiple extortion cases pending against him, founded on the testimony of numerous prominent business owners who he victimized and exploited”.
The former US ambassador further wrote:
“Tarique’s flagrant corruption has also seriously threatened specific US Mission goals. Embassy Dhaka has three key priorities for Bangladesh: democratization Bangladesh: democratization, development, and denial of space to terrorists. Tarique’s audaciously corrupt activities jeopardize all three. His history of embezzlement, extortion, and interference in the judicial process undermines the rule of law and threatens to upend the US goal of a stable, democratic Bangladesh. The climate of corrupt business practices and bribe solicitation that Tarique fostered derailed U.S. efforts to promote economic development by discouraging much needed foreign investment and complicating the international operations of US companies. Finally, his flagrant disregard for the rule of law has provided potent ground for terrorists to gain a foothold in Bangladesh while also exacerbating poverty and weakening democratic institutions. In short, much of what is wrong in Bangladesh can be blamed on Tarique and his cronies.
“Applying a 212(f) finding to Tarique Rahman supports the US’s strong stand against corruption in Bangladesh. Embassy recommends that Tarique Rahman be found subject to Presidential Proclamation 7750 for participating in public official corruption as defined by Section 1, Paragraph (c) of the Proclamation”.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a multi-award-winning journalist, writer, research-scholar, and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib