Cox's Bazar Marine Drive
PM’s another milestone on the road to development
Observer News Analysis
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has proved to be a crusader against challenges, undaunted by threats and odds that have symbolized herself not only as the top leader in Bangladesh but also one of the tops globally.
She takes challenges, square them up to the end and wins with robust motivation and determination to hit the targets she has set for the welfare of the people and the country.
One of such marvel she added to her credit was the world's longest marine drive in Cox's Bazar, along the shore of the Bay of Bengal. As she flagged this off, as usual, her rivals immediately launched a barrage of criticisms, saying that the marine drive is not cohesive to Bangladesh's ecological standards and may destroy the world's longest natural sea beach in part. They, however, assigned no scientific reasons but made statements heavy with political nonsense. They have also been campaigning against the coal-based power plants, the present government has planned to ensure power for the country's need. As usual this campaign is more politically motivated than fact-based.
In Cox's Bazar, the PM reiterated her vision to take Bangladesh on the highway of development. She also declared a war against illegal drugs - Yaba and others - and warned that anyone found involved in this business will be dealt with sternly. She announced her plan to make the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar highway four-lane like the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh highways.
Sheikh Hasina said the marine drive was a dream of her father, our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She just has fulfilled his (Bangabandhu's) dream like many other dreams including building of "Sonar Bangla".
Bangabandhu was gunned down in less than four years after he led Bangladesh to independence from Pakistan in December 1971 which culminated his decades of struggles towards reaching that goal. Sheikh Hasina, Bangabandhu's prodigy and the leader of the nation in his absence, took over the mantle of her father, assassinated by a group of deranged army officers on August 15, 1975. She transformed Bangladesh, once billed by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a "bottomless basket", into a country with steady economic progress, stable social and communal peace and democratic governance overcoming many odds and bids to encourage the unconstitutional forces to take over power. This has happened a number of times in Sheikh Haisna's lifetime. She beat the latest military-backed civilian autocracy in the December 2008 parliamentary elections.
Sheikh Hasina's Awami League defeated BNP and its allies in that landmark vote and reverted Bangladesh on the path of development, democracy and communal harmony, based on the spirits of the 1971 Liberation War. Her party won another parliamentary poll in 2014, which BNP boycotted - giving the incumbent premier her second consecutive run in power. The next election due in late 2018 or early 2019 will be another challenge she and her party will face.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina has consolidated her popularity as the best leader the country ever had since Bangabandhu's death - but she also came under repeated threats on her life, including a grenade attack masterminded by the rulers on a rally Sheikh Hasina was addressing as the then Leader of the Opposition in Dhaka on August 21, 2004. It was not the end.
The latest threat to her life came in November 2016, when a national airlines (Bangladesh Biman) flight carrying her to Budapest in Hungary to attend an international conference on climate change was forced to land in Turkmenistan. The drop down was due to technical glitches onboard which an investigation found was "man made." Several suspects have been arrested and are on trial.
All those attempts to cut short Sheikh Hasna's rule and life, she survived by sheer luck and due to divine blessings and doa of the people, who respect her for her courage, determination, togetherness with the masses and her continuous battle against corruption and militancy.
While she has been successfully fighting the scourge of militancy and terrorism, the Prime Minister is yet to be successful in her bids to contain corruption and wrongdoings - which sweep the administration, ruling party and also the law enforcing agencies as a legacy of military and dictatorial rule since the killing of the Father of the Nation in 1975.
Sheikh Hasina's rival BNP chief Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister, had been in power for ten years in two spells since 1991 but she has faced no threat to her person or life. Sheikh Hasina is among the most vulnerable world leaders today. She refuses to bow down or give up, saying she would if necessary lay down her life like Bangabandhu to ensure the rights and privileges of the people of Bangladesh. She also says she has no political ambition but to serve the country as the people have already awarded her love and respect.
Even she has said she wants to abdicate her position as President of the ruling party - but, not surprisingly though, no one in Awami League so far opted or dared to replace her. She is immensely popular for her strong leadership in her party and among the common people.
During her rule Bangladesh achieved highest per capita income and foreign exchange reserves, maintained a steady over 6.5 percent economic growth and hopes to raise GDP growth to over 7 percent in the current fiscal. Exports driven by readymade garments continue to rise year on year despite a series of violence, shutdown and unrest by the BNP and its principal ally Jamaat-e-Islami trying to thwart development and democracy. Also, the remittances from Bangladeshis working abroad flowed in steadily despite the global recession and ravages of war in some of the countries they are employed.
For all these, people give the credit to Sheikh Hasina - an avowed crusader against corruption and abuse, and in favour of development and peace - who has often been challenged not only by her political rivals but also by people from within the administration and ruling party. They try to defy the PM or violate her directives. But she has won the challenges in most of times. Sheikh Hasina never compromises with the wrongdoers even in her own party. She is aware of the bad elements in her party and government and tries to restrict their illegal activities. But they are too many.
She drew much appreciation by rushing to see and help the people in distress.The PM made a quick trip to the country's Haor areas recently - where pre-monsoon flash floods have destroyed crops, fishes and poultry farms the people used to live on. The Haor people are now facing the worst in many years. The Prime Minister assured the victims of survival support until they stand up on their own feet again and ordered the concerned ministry and officials to send in relief supplies without delay. She also warned against corruption in the distribution of relief goods.
Sheikh Hasina ordered immediate investigation against failure or negligence by officials to build embankments in Haor areas to protect the zone from nature's onslaughts like floods. On the very second day of her visit to Sunamganj, the Water Development Board engineers have been suspended and more are under the radar. This had proved effectiveness of the PM's directive and fears that irresponsibility and misuse of government funds for development projects would be dealt with seriously.
On the other hand, Khaleda Zia and her allies refuse to leave the cosy life in Dhaka but keep criticizing the PM and her government for "failing to assist the Haor people." They are used to doing so against any noble gesture by the prime minister.
Sheikh Hasina remains firm on her policies and decisions -- and she moves on the road towards development and progress of the country. She adopted "zero tolerance" policy in fighting militancy, reached a series of deals with India as part of policy to improve friendship and cooperation with neighbours besides also maintaining warm ties with Japan, China, United States, UK and EU countries.
Her government remained unrelenting under local and global pressures not to try and punish the war criminals (people who committed crimes against humanity during Bangladesh's 1971 War of Liberation). Several top Jamaat leaders (war criminals) have already been hanged and many more are on the waiting list - something that earned wide appreciation of people and upgraded her rating as a statesman.
However, the enemies of Bangladesh including the war criminals (WCs) as well as militants and their patrons at home and abroad are still playing a dirty game apparently to eliminate Sheikh Hasina, destroy democracy, secular state principles and freedom of all religions in Bangladesh. Their dream is to turn Bangladesh into a Sharia based Islamic state for which the WCs as well as radical local and international Islamist groups like IS and al Qaeda have links with militants and agents in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina avowedly resists them and never fears for her own life. Therefore, she has become the most adorable leader of Bangladesh and one of the bold leaders in the world.
Imbued with the ideals of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the spirits of the 1971 War of Liberation Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is now driving Bangladesh on the highway to prosperity, unflinching democracy and higher standard of living for every citizen. And we wish the journey continues defying all challenges and odds.