Since we have been on the topic of corrupt South Asian leaders who go on to have a second chapter in their political careers, it seems worth pointing out that Sheikh Hasina, leader of Bangladesh’s Awami League Party, has been elected back into office in that country.
But since I recently reviewed Tahmima Anam’s A Golden Age, here is her response, published in The Guardian’s Comment is Free:
The BNP were at the helm of power in the last electoral cycle. During this time, Khaleda Zia promoted cronies to high positions of power, corrupted the courts with political appointments, and oversaw the theft of government funds on an unprecedented level. In 2007, the party orchestrated a coordinated effort to rig the elections, leading to the army’s intervention and two years of military-backed rule.
In this election, the BNP allied themselves with the Jamaat-e-Islami and conducted a campaign of fear-mongering, with slogans decrying the corruption of religious values and predicting a threat to Islam through foreign influence. By contrast, the Awami League ran a campaign that was purposefully secular and progressive. Though no stranger to allegations of corruption, the Awami League cleansed its party of much of the old guard. In the end, it campaigned on a platform of change, promising jobs and economic regeneration. The result was not only victory for the Awami League, but a near annihilation of the Jamaat-e-Islami. (link)
I’m certainly pleased whenever parties (in any country) advocating Sharia are soundly defeated like this. But I wonder why the silence on Sheikh Hasina’s own poor performance in her earlier term in office? Anam’s optimism and enthusiasm seems to be the consensus amongst progressive Bangladeshis from what I can tell; there is simply great relief that the rising tide of Islamism seems to have been reversed.
But I’m curious if there are other perspectives. One articulate dissent I’ve come across so far comes from a commenter on Anam’s article at The Guardian, who identifies himself (or herself) as SMohamed:
As a British Muslim of Bangladeshi decent it has been disheartening to often hear the land of my forefather denigrated as corrupt and ‘dirt poor’. In my opinion the ‘ladies’ in question are the main reason for the corruption through the incompetence and downright disregard they have for the peopple of Bangladesh. Dynastic politics do not work. The ladies in question lead only in name with far better players pulling the strings. I would be proud if Bangladesh actually had a lady in power who was not associated to previous leaders. She may actually have a mind of her own and bring about the change that is so desperately needed in a country on the verge of natural annihilation. (link)
Is Bangladesh now going to be in a better position on the global stage, or will it be stuck where it has been for years? Is there evidence that Sheikh Hasina might be a more effective, less corrupt leader of her country this time around?