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The ageing 'uncle' seeking to bring down Bangladesh PM Hasina

The aging 'uncle' seeking to bring down Bangladesh PM Hasina Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Dhaka, Bangladesh Nov 28, 2018, 05.20 PM (IST)

An octogenarian former comrade of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's father in the country's independence struggle is now the face of an embattled opposition seeking to end her decade-long rule increasingly tainted by accusations of authoritarianism.

The 82-year-old Kamal Hossain said in an interview with Reuters on Monday that his decision to forge an alliance with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was critical to restoring democracy in the country.

Hossain is an Oxford-educated international jurist who drafted the country's constitution - and whom Hasina grew up calling "kaka", or uncle. He will be fighting to wrest away power from Hasina's ruling Awami League in a general election due by December 30.

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the longest-serving leader in its short history. She began a second straight term in power in 2014, after an election boycotted by the BNP and shunned by international observers, with more than half the seats uncontested.

"What has happened in the last five years is unprecedented," Hossain said. "We've never had a government which has been around for five years without elections."

The BNP's participation in the December 30 election was in doubt until last month, when it and three other parties announced the formation of a new alliance, the Jatiya Oikya Front, or National Unity Front, helmed by Hossain.

Hossain had said he was not seeking to become prime minister as he is too old. But some in the coalition, he said, privately compare him to Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian prime minister who took power earlier this year at age 92.

Story highlights

The 82-year-old Kamal Hossain said in an interview with Reuters on Monday that his decision to forge an alliance with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was critical to restoring democracy in the country.