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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s daughter top contender for WHO RD post

When Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter Saima Wazed accompanied her mother to the G20 Summit in New Delhi, observers were not surprised. Wazed is contesting elections to become regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and is looking to get India’s vote.

Wazed has a masters degree in psychology and specialises in autism. Her official title is chairperson of Bangladesh’s National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

The candidate she is up against, though – Nepal’s Shambhu Prasad Acharya, one of the WHO’s senior-most officials – may also be expecting India’s vote, given the close ties between the two neighbouring countries.

“It matters who becomes their regional directors because they have considerable decentralised authority to influence the health chances of billions,” according to Health Policy Watch.

Elections to appoint the WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) director will be held in New Delhi, where SEARO is based, between October 30 and November 2. Eleven countries will be voting: Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

There has been speculation that Wazed may soon be taking on a more active role in Hasina’s party, Awami League. “The question of a succession plan in Awami League has long been thought about. We believe that it will be done in a democratic manner, but democracy does not eliminate familial ties that a person may have with a political party,” Ambassador Sarvajit Chakravarti, who served two terms in Bangladesh, told Deccan Herald.

Hasina’s decision to take Wazed along to high-level international meetings, including the G20, has come under scrutiny. “…being introduced by her mother at recent high-level summits such as BRICS, ASEAN, G20 and the UN General Assembly to craft deals in exchange for votes may be seen as crossing the fine line between a government’s legitimate lobbying for its candidate and craven nepotism,” Health Policy Watch stated.

The website also alleged that Bangladesh had put pressure on other countries not to nominate candidates, and that there was also pressure on Nepal to withdraw Acharya’s candidature.

India is yet to decide how it will vote in the upcoming election, The Hindu reported, but some officials say Wazed may have an edge because of the close and important India-Bangladesh ties. The Wire

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