Women take lead in Bangladesh cabinet

January 7, 2009 12:00 am

, DHAKA, Jan 7 – Bangladesh’s newly sworn-in prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed has unveiled her cabinet team, appointing women for the first time to head the home and foreign ministries.

The 31-member cabinet comprises five women in total, including the 61-year-old prime minister herself, who is taking power of the impoverished country for the second time.

The Awami League party leader was premier for five years from 1996.

Dipu Moni, a doctor and first-time MP who was active in the party’s women’s wing, was named the country’s first female foreign minister while Sahara Khatan, a lawyer, was given the home ministry portfolio.

Motia Chowdhury returned to the agriculture ministry she headed in Sheikh Hasina’s previous administration, while Munnujan Sufian, a newcomer to politics, was made a state minister.

The prime minister has appointed herself in charge of energy, defence, religion, women and works portfolios.

The Awami League party won a clear majority in last Monday’s vote, picking up 230 out of a possible 300 seats, but Sheikh Hasina has given two positions to coalition party members.

Some media commentators said the move signalled that she wanted to offer a fresh start to a political system that has been frequently paralysed in the past for confrontational relations between the opposition and the government.

The new administration faces tough challenges in the grindingly poor country beset with infrastructural problems.

"For the most part it is an inexperienced team. It will therefore be a big challenge for the government to deliver the goods in full measure to the nation," The Daily Star said in an editorial Wednesday.

Sheikh Hasina was sworn into office on Tuesday, ending two years of rule by an army-backed regime that took control after deadly protests over allegations of vote rigging brought the country to a standstill.

Sheikh Hasina was jailed for a year by the interim government over corruption allegations. About 10 charges still in place are expected to be dropped in the coming months.


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