Bangladesh Awami League

Bangladesh Awami League

party_name = Awami League
leader = Sheikh Hasina
foundation = June 23, 1949
ideology = Center-left, Liberalism, Secularism
international = None
colors = Green
headquarters = Bongobondhu Avenue, Dhaka
website = [ Awami League]

The Bangladesh Awami League (Bengali: বাংলাদেশ আওয়ামী লীগ; also translated Bangladesh People's League) is the mainstream secular political party in Bangladesh, and the political catalyst for Bengali discontent and rebellion in 1971. The party is now headed by Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Awami League has been in government for two terms, approximately eight and a half years, since Bangladesh's independence in 1971. In the 2001 general election it received 40 percent of the vote and won 62 of 300 parliamentary seats, becoming the second-largest party in the parliament behind the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Pre-Independence History

1949 - 1966

The "All Pakistan Awami Muslim League" was formed as a breakaway faction of the "All Pakistan Muslim League" in 1949. The word "Muslim" was dropped in 1955. Two parties of the same name were created in Pakistan, one in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) on June 23, 1949 by Maulana Abdul Hameed Khan Bhashani. Its first general secretary was Shamsul Hoq. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Khondokar Mostaq Ahmed were its first joint secretaries [Dhaka bishwbidyaloyer ashi bochor; Prof. Rafiqul islam] [ [ Political profile of Shiekh Mujibur Rahman] ] [ [ Daily Amardesh; June 23, 2007] ] in East Pakistan; and the other in the North-West Frontier Province of the then West Pakistan by Peer Manki Shareef sometime soon after. In February 1950, both were merged, creating the "All Pakistan Awami Muslim League" with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy as its leader. As the years went by, the Awami League became associated with the oppressed Bangla-speaking majority of the East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected party president in 1966, and the AL gained much popularity through the famous 6 point movement.

1966 - 1971

The 6-point demands, proposed by Mujib, were widely accepted by the East Pakistani populace, as it proposed greater autonomy for the provinces of Pakistan. After the so-called Agartala Conspiracy Case and subsequent fall of the Ayub Khan regime in Pakistan, Awami League and their leader Sheikh Mujib reached the peak of their popularity among the East Pakistani Bengali population. In the elections of 1970, Awami League won 167 of 169 East Pakistan seats in the National Assembly but none of West Pakistan's 138 seats. It also won 288 of the 300 provincial assembly seats in East Pakistan. [ [ General Elections 1970 - Story of Pakistan] ] [ [ The Second Martial Law] ] . This win gave the Awami League a healthy majority in the 313-seat National Assembly, and placed it in a position to establish a government without coalition partners. This led directly to the events of the Bangladesh Liberation War. The AL leaders, exiled in India, successfully led the war against the Pakistani Army throughout 1971.

Post Independence History

1972 - 1975

The party came to power after independence in 1972 under Mujib, and the party name was changed into "Awami League". However, the party was disturbed by internal corruption and failed to some extent to repair the nation's wounds from the independence war. As Bangladesh continued exporting jute to Egypt violating US economic sanctions, the Nixon government barred food-grain imports that Bangladesh had already paid for from reaching the country. As a result, the famine of 1974 was inevitable. 28,000 people died, and support for Mujib declined dramatically.In January 1975, Mujib declared a state of emergency and later assumed the presidency, after the Awami League-dominated parliament made the presidency an executive post. He renamed the League the "Bangladesh Farmers and Workers Awami League "(Bangladesh Krishok Sramik Awami League, BAKSAL)", and banned all other parties. BAKSAL became the strong arm of what had turned into a dictatorship. Many opposition political workers, mostly revolutionary communist elements, were jailed after three Members of Parliament were killed by the communist insurgency. The crackdown on opposition was aided by the elite paramilitary force "Rakkhi Bahini".

1975 - 1996

These negative developments led to a widespread dissatisfaction among the people and even inside the Army. On 15 August, 1975 some junior members of the armed forces in Dhaka, led by Major Faruk Rahman and Major Rashid, assassinated Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and all his family members. Within months, four more of its top leaders, Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, captain Muhammad Mansur Ali and A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman were killed inside the Dhaka Central Jail on November 3, 1975. Only Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, two daughters of Mujib, survived the massacre, as they were in West Germany as a part of a cultural exchange program. They later took political asylum in the UK. Sheikh Rehana, the younger sister, chose to remain in the UK permanently while Sheikh Hasina moved to India and lived in self-exile. Her stays abroad helped her gain important political friends in the West and in India that proved to be a valuable asset for the party in future.

After 1975, the party remained split in to several rival factions, and fared poorly in the 1979 parliamentary elections held under a military government. In 1981, Sheikh Hasina returned after the largest party faction, "Bangladesh Awami League," elected her its president, and proceeded to take over the party leadership and unite the factions. However, as she was underage at the time, she could not take part in the 1981 presidential elections that followed the assassination of the then President Ziaur Rahman. Throughout the following nine years of military rule by General Ershad, AL participated in some polls and boycotted most, nearly all of which were allegedly rigged.

Awami League emerged as the largest opposition party in the parliament in the elections in 1991, following the uprising against Ershad. It made major electoral gains in 1994 as its candidates won mayoral elections in the two largest cities of the country: capital Dhaka and commercial capital Chittagong. Demanding electoral reforms, the party resigned from the parliament in 1995, boycotted the February 1996 parliamentary polls, and subsequently won 146 out of 300 seats in June 1996 parliamentary polls. Supported by a few smaller parties, Awami League formed a "Government of National Unity," and elected a non-partisan person, retired Chief Justice, President Shahabuddin Ahmed to be the head of state.

1996 - 2001

AL's second term in office had mixed achievements. Apart from sustaining economic stability during the Asian economic crisis, the government successfully settled Bangladesh's long standing dispute with India over sharing the water of the river Ganga (also known as Padma) in late 1996, and signed a peace treaty with tribal rebels in 1997. In 1998, Bangladesh faced one of the worst floods ever, and the government handled the crisis satisfactorily. It also had significant achievements in containing inflation, and peacefully neutralising a long-running leftist insurgency in south-western districts dating back to the first AL government's time. However, rampant corruption allegations against party office bearers and ministers as well as deteriorating law and order situation troubled the government. Its pro-poor policies achieved wide microeconomic development but that left the country's wealthy business class dissatisfied. AL's last months in office were marred by sporadic bombing by alleged Islamist militants. Hasina herself escaped several attempts on her life, in one of which cases two anti-tank mines were planted under her helipad in Gopalganj district. In July 2001, the second AL government stepped down becoming the first elected government in Bangladesh to serve a full term in office.

In the elections held in October, 2001 election, the party won 40% of the votes, up from 36% in 1996 and 33% in 1991. However, they only won elections in 62 out of 300 parliamentary seats, as the BNP and its allies won two-thirds majority in the parliament with 46% votes. Since then, the AL has been vigorously pursuing a campaign to bring about reforms in the electoral laws that it views as prone to corruption.

2001 - 2006

In its second term in opposition since 1991, the party suffered assassination of several key members. Popular young leader Ahsanullah Master, a Member of Parliament from Gazipur, was killed in 2004. This was followed by a grenade attack on Hasina during a public meeting on August 21, 2004, resulting in the death of 21 party supporters, including party women's secretary Ivy Rahman. Finally, the party's electoral secretary, ex finance minister, and veteran diplomat Shah A.M.S. Kibria, a Member of Parliament from Hobiganj, was killed in a grenade attack in Sylhet later that year.

In June 2005, the Awami League won an important victory when the AL-nominated incumbent mayor A.B.M. Mohiuddin Chowdhury won the important mayoral election in Chittagong by a huge margin against BNP-nominee, State Minister of Aviation Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin. This election was seen as a showdown between the Awami League and the BNP. However, the killing of party leaders continued. In December 2005, the AL-supported Mayor of Sylhet narrowly escaped the third attempt on his life as a grenade thrown on him failed to explode.

In September 2006, several of the party's top leaders including Saber Hossain Choudhury MP and Asaduzzaman Nur MP were hospitalised after being critically injured in police beating while demonstrating in support of electoral-law reforms.

In late October and throughout November 2006, the Awami League-led alliance observed a series of nationwide demonstrations and blockade programs centring around the selection of the leader of the interim caretaker administration that would oversee the 2007 elections, and controversies that arose during this time. 26 political activists of different political parties died in violence and police firing during this period.

Future Directions

Though most of the top AL leaders are in their late sixties now, there is a pretty even distribution of age groups among the party hierarchy. AL's younger genre of leaders include KM Obaidul Kader, Syed Ashraful Islam, Saber Hossain Choudhury, Asaduzzaman Nur, Mohammad Nasim, and Sohel Taj. Among them, Kader and Nasim have been imprisoned on corruption charges by the current military backed government in Bangladesh.

Upcoming Elections

After the 2001 elections the Awami League formed a left-leaning alliance of 14 parties with whom it intended to contest parliamentary polls originally expected in January 2007, which has since been indefinitely postponed by the current military backed interim government of Bangladesh.

An electoral analysis conducted by a private research institution owned by an ex-MP of the then ruling BNP based on field level surveys was published in leading Bangladeshi newspapers including The Daily Star (Bangladesh) and Prothom Alo in October 2006. It showed that the AL had 23% public support at that point against BNP's 16% while more than half the electorate of the country were undecided. The study predicted 180 seats for the AL and 80 for BNP in the general election that were to be held in early 2007. [ [ Daily Star - Elections 2007] ] [ [ Prothom Alo] ] The Awami League protested the electoral arrangements which it said would be rigged [ [ VOA news] ] . After the elections were indefinitely postponed in January 2007 in the face of AL led protests and international pressure, the military backed interim government pledged to implement electoral reform in line with the party's demands, and to hold the election by the end of 2008.


ee also

* Politics of Bangladesh
* List of political parties in Bangladesh
* List of political parties in Pakistan
** National Awami Party
** Awami National Party
* Bangladesh Chhatra League

Bongobondhu sonik league chittagong city

External links

* [ Awami League web site]
* [ Italy Awami League Sheikh Hasina Mukti Porishod]
* [ About Awami League]

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