No alternative to Hasina

Leads party for 32 years of its 63-year history

After setting a record of leading her party for 32 years, Awami League president Sheikh Hasina is still looking certain to remain at the helm of the party for at least another three years through today's national council.

Since the inception of the party in 1949, almost 63 years ago, none of the previous leaders including her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had the opportunity to retain the party helm for so long.

When her attention was drawn to this fact, political scientist Prof Dilara Chowdhury said, “I am more than sure no other democratic country in the world has such a record.”

Hasina's archrival Khaleda Zia, chairperson of the BNP, is however also in the race. She has been leading BNP for the last 28 years after its founding 35 years ago. It is certain that she will be made the party chief for another term when BNP holds its national council next year. Compared to her party's age, Khaleda's record is thus somewhat stronger than that of Hasina.

During her leadership, Hasina has faced very little opposition within the party or handled little intra-party conflicts, except for that during the last military-backed caretaker government when a good number of central leaders moved to reform the party curbing her absolute power.

However, lesser challenges within the party helped her emerge as the supreme leader of the party and her cabinet during the current tenure.

Bangabandhu, who was the supreme leader of the country, unlike his daughter did not enjoy such congenial ambience when he was leading the party. Sometimes, he had to take drastic measures, such as personal intervention or accommodation of factional leaders in powerful positions, to minimise internal conflicts in the party.

However, Hasina had resigned as the AL chief on March 3, 1991, after her party's defeat in the fifth parliamentary elections in February the same year to BNP. But she had to backtrack from the decision a couple of days later, on March 5, under immense pressure from her party leaders and activists.

Hasina was made the AL president at a time when the party was facing a volatile situation following the assassination of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975. After the assassination, his government was overthrown and the country was put under martial law.

In early 1975, the AL was dissolved by forming Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League, which was then the only political party of the country.

After the revival of the AL during the martial law regime, its first council of the party was held in 1978 in which Abdul Malek Ukil and Abdur Razzak were elected as the party president and secretary respectively. But after the council, factional fights within the party continued to escalate.

And before the party's next council in 1981, the factional fights reached a more acrimonious level. Against such backdrop, Sheikh Hasina, who was then abroad, was elected as the party chief in an effort to reduce the internal conflicts.

Hasina returned to the country on May 17, 1981 and engaged herself in party activities. Since then she has been leading the AL. She was re-elected as the president of the party in successive councils in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2008.

It is certain that she will be re-elected for the post again in today's national council. Under her leadership, the AL won the parliamentary elections twice — in 1996 and 2008 — and she became the prime minister each time.

None of Hasina's predecessors was fortunate like her. In independent Bangladesh, the first AL council was held in 1972, in which Bangabandhu was elected as its president and Zillur Rahman, now the president of the country, as the secretary. In the next council of 1974, AHM Quamaruzzaman became the party president while Zillur Rahman its secretary.

Before the country's independence, the first council of Awami League was held in 1953. In that, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were elected as the president and general secretary of the party, respectively, while Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy was made the central party convener of entire (East and West) Pakistan.

In the next two councils held in 1955 and 1957, Bhashani and Mujib were re-elected for the same posts. But a few years after the 1957 council, Maulana Bhashani severed his relation with the AL and formed National Awami Party. The very year, a special council of the AL was held and Bhashani was replaced by Suhrawardy.

During the martial law regime of Gen Ayub Khan, the political parties faced difficulties in carrying out their activities. So the AL took seven years, up to 1964, to hold the next council. In that, Maulana Abdur Rashid Torkobagish was elected as the party president and Shiekh Mujib as general secretary. Sheikh Mujib was elected as the party chief in 1966. In the 1967's council, Sheikh Mujib was re-elected as the party president and Tajuddin was made general secretary of the East Pakistan AL.

During the Pakistan period, the last council of AL was held in 1969 where Sheikh Mujib was elected as president of central and East Pakistan chapter of the party.

Source:The Daily Star