Bangladesh Awami League,founded in historic Rose Garden in the Old City of Dhaka on June 23 in 1949, is not only one of the oldest democratic parties of the country, but also the only political organisation, which solely led most of the democratic movements including the great liberation war in 1971. The greatest political achievements include participation in 1952 language movement, anti Ayub Khan movement, student movement in 1969, placement of 6-point demand by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the historic democratic upsurge, participation in 1970 general election and winning the mandate of the nation, and lastly the War of Liberation in 1971. This record turned AL into a political institution and the most respected democratic political party of the sub-continent.
Today AL, which is ruling the country for more than nine years continuously, will celebrate its 69th anniversary in a different festive mode as a new dimension is going to be added on this special day. A newly-constructed 10-storey office of the party, equipped with all modern facilities, will be inaugurated, marking the 69th anniversary of the party.
After coming into being as a new political party, it found out that the path was not smooth, rather it was rough, as Muslim League made it difficult to take steps for people’s welfare.
The party had to face serious obstacles from various influential quarters, including from the Pakistani military rulers and radical Pakistani politicians, who never wanted to see any Bangalee political organisation to challenge them.
Even after the creation of Bangladesh through 9-month long bloody war against mighty United States and China backed Pakistani occupational forces, which is a rare feat in world history, AL leaders and activists faced some anti-state elements, which once were members of AL.
After returning from Pakistani jail, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was trying his utmost to rebuild the country, which was destroyed during the liberation war. But some local and international quarters were hatching deadly conspiracy against the newly born Bangladesh and the ruling AL.
At one stage, some misguided army officers assassinated Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members on the darkest night of August 15 in 1975. Not only this, pro-Pakistani groups killed four national leaders, who were also the key-figures of the party after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Some army officers killed Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, M Mansur Ali and AHM Qamaruzzaman on November 3 in 1975, just 79 days after the August 15 massacre.
After losing all these top level leaders in 1975, AL faced most hazardous crisis in its history.
Military dictator late Ziaur Rahman took an all out plan to destroy AL to rule the country having no opposition. Zia started patronizing Freedom Party’s armed cadres, which were being led by Bangabandhu’s main killers Lt Col (dismissed) Syed Faruk Rahman and his notorious cohorts. It was in such an environment that Sheikh Hasina returned from abroad to reorganise party despite the risks on her life,
Another pro-Pakistani military autocrat General Hussaian Mohammad Ershad also supported Zia’s ill- motive to demolish the party.
After the fall of General Ershad in 1990, AL leaders and activists dreamed that they will get a scope to flourish democracy. After a general election Khaleda Zia came to power in 1991.
On 12th June 1996, Awami League won majority in parliamentary polls. A new era of development, peace and prosperity was ushered in, not seen in the country since the death of the Father of the Nation in 1975. After a restriction of 21 years, legal steps were initiated to try the self-confessed murderers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The country saw major milestones during this period. On 1st January, 1997 the historic Bangladesh-India water sharing treaty was signed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the then Indian Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.
On 2nd December of the same year, Sheikh Hasina signed the historic Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord, bringing an end to decades of conflict and unrest in the hill areas. Overall development was noticeable as the country progressed in all economic and social fronts. In 1999, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was nominated for the UNESCO Peace Prize for bringing peace in the Hill Tracts and won the Ceres Medal from UN FAO for her work in fighting hunger.
In 2001, she was removed from government through a questionable election.
As the opposition leader she spoke on behalf of the people both in parliament and outside.
On 21st August, 2004, a grenade attack was launched at an AL rally in Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital to render the party leaderless including eliminating Sheikh Hasina. Sheikh Hasina suffered serious injury to her hearing. Twenty four people including AL workers were killed.
Patronized by the BNP-Jamaat government, radical extremist groups and terrorist organizations flourished.
As a secular and progressive party, AL and its leaders became constant targets of these groups, emboldened by the inaction and often help of the BNP-Jamaat government.
In January 2007, taking advantage of the political unrest unleashed by BNP-Jamaat’s voting
fraud, and their deliberate attempts to manipulate the caretaker government system by installing the puppet President Iajuddin Ahmed as the Chief Advisor, the military seized power through installing a so-called ‘caretaker government’. Widespread restrictions on constitutional and fundamental rights were imposed in the guise of emergency powers. All political activity was effectively banned. Knowing that only one leader in Bangladesh had enough public support and organizational strength to pose a challenge to their rule, on 16th July 2007, the regime arrested Sheikh Hasina on false charges which subsequently came to be dismissed by the highest courts of the country. She was held in captivity until her release on 11 June, 2008. After treatment abroad, she returned home on 4 December, 2008. During her absence, the party launched a massive campaign, both at home and abroad, to press for her release.
Between 7th and 30th June, 2008 mass signature campaign was conducted nationwide to realize release of Sheikh Hasina. From 15th to 30th June, extended meetings of the party were organized in various districts to mount public pressure for the demand.
The Founders and Builders of the Awami League
After being released, on 12th December, a rejuvenated AL led by Sheikh Hasina unveiled the election manifesto called ‘Dinbodoler Shonod’ (Manifesto of Change) which highlighted such aims as turning Bangladesh into a technology advanced middle income country by the year 2021. On 29th December 2008, the AL-led Grand Alliance won a landslide victory in the national elections by securing 264 out of 300 seats.
Since 2009, Bangladesh has been experiencing its most rapid development period to date.
Maintaining around 6.4% average economic growth over seven years, while the world was experiencing a global economic meltdown, the country made tremendous strides
in most major economic indicators such as export earnings, remittance income, per capita income, and foreign exchange reserves. In 2015, the country for the first time since its independence became a lower middle income country from a low income country. Poverty has been brought down from over 37% to 22.4%.
The country has seen rapid progress in such crucial sectors as IT, education, healthcare, food security, creating jobs, empowering women, providing access to energy, fighting terrorism and so on. Especially due to the successes of the last seven years, Bangladesh became a bright example in the developing world for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Under the Digital Bangladesh vision of AL, Bangladesh is quickly transforming itself into the next IT hub. Numbers of mobile and internet subscribers have trebled over seven years, more and more people are accessing public services online and exports from the ICT sector reached $300 million in 2015 from a paltry $26 million in 2006. Sheikh Hasina, her government, and the country under her leadership has won numerous prestigious international awards for successes in ICT, MDGs, education, reducing hunger, empowering women etc.
In order to bring an end to the culture of impunity, the government of Sheikh Hasina, as per her historical and electoral pledge, formed the International Crimes Tribunal to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War. Since 2010, the ICT has been able to successfully complete the trials and verdict executions of many such heinous criminals, while a number of such accused are currently standing or waiting to stand trial.
On the international front, Sheikh Hasina-led AL is playing an active role in addressing such crucial global issues as terrorism and violent extremism, migration and refugee issues, climate change, women empowerment, increased regional connectivity and cooperation and developing a culture of peace. Bangladesh is also currently the second largest troops contributing country in the world for UN Peacekeeping missions.
AL is an inextricable part of the country’s historical events, both triumphant and tragic. However, with its deep roots in history and tradition, it has always proved to be the most forward looking party as well. With AL in power, the people can be optimistic of an even better future for themselves and the country.
The country’s foreign relations with China, Japan India, and Canada have been strengthened over the years under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who earnestly followed in the footsteps of architect of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who always believed in ‘Friendship to all, malice to none’ policy.
The country’s export also got a huge boost under the incumbent government.
Seven ongoing mega development projects by the government have significant positive impact for the country.
The projects are the Padma Bridge, Rooppur Nuclear Power project, Paira Sea Port, the coal fired large power projects of Matarbari and Rampal, Metro Rail and LNG terminal.
Today the country is enjoying the status of a developing country fulfilling all criteria.