The aging ‘uncle’ seeking to bring down Bangladesh PM Hasina

Kamal Hossain, a leader of the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyafront, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 22, 2018. . REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

DHAKA (Reuters) – 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.

In a general election due next month, Hasina’s ruling Awami League will be fighting to retain power against a new alliance led by Kamal Hossain, an Oxford-educated international jurist who drafted the country’s constitution – and whom Hasina grew up calling “kaka”, or uncle.

The 82-year-old lawyer says his decision to forge an alliance with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was critical to restoring democracy in the country.

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 told Reuters in an interview. “We have never had a government for five years that was unelected.”

Hasina and BNP chief Khaleda Zia share a long and bitter rivalry and have alternated in power for most of the past 28 years. But the BNP has been in disarray since Khaleda was jailed on corruption charges, which she denies, early this year.

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