A member of the Awami League’s policymaking Presidium, Sahara represented the Dhaka 18 constituency for a third term
Former home minister Sahara Khatun has passed away undergoing treatment at a hospital in Thailand.
The 77 year old breathed her last at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok at 11.25pm (Bangladesh time) on Thursday, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, Ihsanul Karim, told Dhaka Tribune.
The member of parliament from Dhaka 18 constituency was admitted to a hospital in Dhaka on June 2 with fever and other preexisting complications.
On June 19, she was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) when her condition deteriorated. She was shifted to the cabin two days later on June 22 as her condition improved.
Sahara was flown to Bangkok on July 6 for advanced medical treatment.
President M Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed profound shock at Sahara Khatun's death, mourning the loss of a the senior leader who was a member of the Awami League's policymaking Presidium.
In his condolence message, the president said the death of Sahara Khatun was an irreparable loss to Bangladesh’s politics, as she had been a tested leader of the Awami League during tough times, BSS reported.
He recalled her outstanding contribution to the country’s politics with due respect.
Being imbued with the immortal ideals of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sahara worked to promote the spirit of the Liberation War and the development of the country’s democracy her whole life, President Abdul Hamid said.
“At her death, Bangladesh has lost a dedicated politician,” he said.
In her condolence message, the prime minister said Sahara had worked all her life following Bangabandhu's ideology in the struggle for restoration of democracy and materializing the rights of the people.
She provided all assistance, including legal services standing beside leaders and activists in critical times, the premier said.
"The country and the nation have lost a competent woman leader, and an honest public leader. I have lost a tested and trusted co-fighter," said Sheikh Hasina.
The president and the prime minister prayed for the eternal peace of the departed soul and conveyed profound sympathy to bereaved family members.
Born in March 1943 in Dhaka, Sahara Khatun completed her BA (Bachelor of Arts) and LLB (Bachelor of Law) degrees. Since her student life, she had been engaged in politics.
Sahara served as a minister for two ministries.
She was an elected member of parliament from Dhaka 18 constituency for the last three terms.
Sahara entered national politics in 1991 and contested the general elections as an Awami League candidate. However, she was defeated by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
In December 2008, she took part in the general election again and became a lawmaker for the first time from Dhaka 18 constituency. She was given charge as home minister in 2009.
Just one and a half months after she took office, Sahara Khatun faced a tough situation in her career as a minister: the BDR mutiny.
On February 25-26 in 2009, disgruntled members of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) killed 17 civilians and 57 army officers who were deputed to the border force, in a mutiny at the BDR’s Pilkhana headquarters in Dhaka.
As home minister, Sahara was blamed for her failure during the mutiny on the one hand, but she was also applauded. She led a delegation and entered Pilkhana to negotiate with the soldiers which eventually saved other military officers who were held hostage inside.
In 2009, as the home minister, she banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, a controversial international Islamist group, for trying to destabilize the country.
In a 2012 cabinet reshuffle, Sahara Khatun was relieved of her duties as the home minister. She was then made the minister for posts and telecommunications and served for two years until 2014.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Chief Whip Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury Liton, Road Transport Minister and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader and Information Minister Hassan Mahmud also condoled her death.
An illustrious political career
Sahara was the first female home minister of Bangladesh. She was the founding president of Awami Lawyers’ Council and acted as Finance Committee chairman for the Bangladesh Bar Council. Besides being a successful politician, she also practiced as a Supreme Court lawyer.
The Awami League presidium member completed her matriculation from Siddeshwari Girls High School in 1960 and completed her HSC from City Night College. She later enrolled at Jagannath College for a BA course. Later she completed her BA in English (degree) from Karachi University.
The Awami League leader also enrolled in Dhaka University to study for an LLB but did not complete her studies. Later, after 1975, she got her LLB degree from City Law College under Dhaka University.
She actively joined politics in 1967. She even won an election as a Chhatra League candidate at the law department of Dhaka University, which was her first election also.
When the women's wing of the Awami League was formed in 1969, she took an active part in it. She was also present at the hoisting of the national flag at Dhaka University on March 2, 1971, and at the historic March 7 speech given by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In 1981, she started practising law and founded the Awami Lawyers’ Council. During her Awami League career, she was the first elected female secretary of Dhaka Metropolitan Awami League.
Later, she was elected office secretary and general secretary of Mohila Awami League and also vice-president of Nagar Awami League.
The late minister was also elected assistant secretary of Law to the Central Committee of Bangladesh Awami League and was later elected the law secretary of the committee.
In 2009, Sahara was elected presidium member of Awami League.
Apart from that, she was a life member of the Family Planning Association, Dhaka Bar Association, Gazipur Bar Association, and the Dhaka Taxes Bar Association.
Sahara was a member of the Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association and also served as the director of the international organization, International Alliance of Women.