IN the vaudeville comedy of the last couple of weeks, something of a global focus on Bangladesh has got sadly overlooked. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ranks 47th in this year's Forbes list of world's 100 most powerful women. She is no stranger to such 'limelight' as The Time's list of world's top 10 women leaders placed her sixth in the pecking order in 2010.
The Forbes claims the listing as 'a definitive annual guide to the extraordinary icons and leaders, groundbreakers and ceiling crashers who commanded the world stage.'
Our PM has entered the Forbes' honour roll under the category of 'politics'- raising a question of the perspective from which it was seen.
The Forbes citation reads as follows: "After a violent election with suspiciously low voting this January, Sheikh Hasina was sworn to office for her second stint as the PM of Bangladesh ... Her victory has been called 'an electoral farce', and in 2013 alone over 500 people were killed as a result of political violence. Over UN objections Hasina's government oversaw the December execution of Abdul Quader Mollah, an Islamist leader who was convicted of war crimes committed in 1971 during Bangladesh's bitter separation from Pakistan. She has been leader of the ruling Awami League since 1981 ... Bangladesh has the world's ninth largest population at 166 million people, nearly 90 percent Muslim."
The tribute is paid as much to the country and its people she represents as to her 'groundbreaking' leadership. The concept of Bangladesh being one of the 11 next emerging economies of the world was set afloat by Goldman Sachs in 2005 and since then this has, on and off, been repeated up until 2013. As the leader of such a country Sheikh Hasina has naturally been in focus.
Underlying Forbes citation is the overarching reality that Sheikh Hasina maintains her hold on power, keeps religious radicalism in check and thereby commands a secularist, libertine influence. Clearly she does not face any challenge from the army as did Pakistan and obviously Thailand which has gone under jackboots. It is thus the democratic and constitutional credentials of the country that most people repose their faith in. It is for Hasina to live up to the widely held expectation for completing the cycle of a full democratic order through a participative election as the essential harbinger.
Lately, Sheikh Hasina is enjoying the confidence of Japan and China. India remains a valued neighbour led by a strong Modi government in New Delhi. Incidentally, Mamata has softened her stance over enclave exchange on the back of Modi reportedly favouring an 'unconditional transfer' of adverse possessions along 6.1 kilometre un-demarcated territory between Bangladesh and India. The huge stash of arms hauled up by Rab at Satchhari along a sensitive point at the Indo-Bangla border should awaken both the countries about fending off the remnants of cross border insurgency.
With Tokyo, the PM has negotiated a landmark infrastructure building programme. She goes to Beijing with assurances of scripting a deal for deep seaport financing apart from Padma Bridge bankrolling under the belt. Just as some geopolitical differences between Tokyo and Beijing did not weigh in with Bangladesh, so also India's perception of her relations with Bangladesh could not come in the way of Bangladesh broad-basing its strategic partnerships in Asia. An infrastructure-wise strong Bangladesh will be as much a strength to India as to our other partners aiming at quantum leaps in intra- and inter-regional trade and economic developments. Geopolitical considerations are balanced out with the primacy of economic development for the poor through vigorous connectivity and trade.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has her hands full with weighty agenda to have any time to spare for distractions. For instance, speaking about progress on probe committee reports by Rab, police, CID and public administration, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said: 'These did not contain any information pointing to Rab's 'association' with the Narayanganj seven murder case.' Quickly on the heels comes the refuting report on Major Arif's admission of responsibility along with purported involvement of other Rab officials.
That is one part of the story, the other is having black sheep in the ruling party which opportunists try to accost for power and pelf. The PM understandably values loyalty of staunch party adherents but should someone lend himself to any amount of incriminating role that must be placed under microscope. By allowing law to take its own course without deflective comments, the government will only put across a robust signal to all concerned that it cannot compromise on rule of law, the best guarantor of citizens' security and welfare.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org