Profile: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the leader of the ruling Awami League Party.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a third consecutive term in office in a controversial general election and her Awami League (AL) Party is on course to get an absolute majority in parliament. But who is the Bangladeshi leader and what does she stand for?

Since Sheikh Hasina, 71, took power in 2008, Bangladesh’s per capita income has seen a threefold increase. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $250bn in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund, and it clocked a growth rate of 7.28 percent last year.

The AL’s manifesto had promised to make Bangladesh a middle-income nation by 2021 and triple its current per capita income of $1,750 in the next decade.

The Bangladeshi leader has led the AL party, founded by her father, since 1981. She served as prime minister from 1996 to 2001, after defeating her archrival Khaleda Zia, who eventually regained power in 2001.

The Awami League is Bangladesh’s oldest party and was formed in 1948 after the foundation of East Pakistan – as the country was known before gaining independence from Pakistan. The party is widely regarded as being pro-India and ardently secular.

In 1990, the two female politicians forged an unlikely alliance in order to overthrow military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad. However, their mutual dislike and distrust, played out by supporters in violent street protests, was blamed for the January 2007 crisis that prompted the military to step in, impose military rule and install a caretaker government.

Former prime minister of Bangladesh and the leader of the BNP, Khaleda Zia.

Both women were arrested and jailed by the then army-backed interim government as part of its crackdown on corruption. They were both eventually released in order to take part in the poll.

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In 1975, most of her family members were killed in a coup, including her mother, three brothers and her father, the then president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led the country in its independence struggle against Pakistan in 1971.

Hasina and her sister were abroad at the time of the 1975 assassinations.

In August 2004, she survived yet another assassination attempt at a political rally. The grenade attack left more than 20 people dead and her car was peppered with bullets as she fled the scene. Earlier this year, 19 people, including the son of the main opposition leader and her bitter political rival, Zia, were jailed for life over the attack.

Her critics have called her authoritarian and accused her government to be behind a number of extrajudicial killings. But her supporters say she is fighting for the people.

She has received both praise and criticism for the handling of the world’s biggest refugee crisis. Nearly one million Rohingya have taken refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing for their lives in Myanmar.

Her supporters say she is committed to improving the lives of Bangladeshis whilst her many critics argue that she is a puppet for India who is hell-bent on secularising Islam.

If the victory is officially sanctioned, she will serve as the prime minister for the third term – a record for any Bangladeshi leader since it was born in 1971.

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SOURCEAl Jazeera
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