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Bangladesh gets a new shot at the stars with PM Sheikh Hasina's third premiership
For the third time in her life, Sheikh Hasina is the prime minister of Bangladesh. And the west should look closer at the stateswoman, whose striking resemblance to Gandhi and other great patriots shows nothing but good things ahead for Bangladesh.

After her first premiership between 1996 to 2001, a second from 2008 to 2014, Sheikh Hasina is back in power in Dhaka. At the head of the Awami (center-left) party, she has returned after a solid election in 2014, beating the nationalist candidate Khaleda Zia, her historical political adversary. There are five main reasons to rejoice at her return in power.

Obviously, she embodies the rise of women in the world. In 2016, Forbes ranked Sheikh Hasina the 36th most powerful woman in the world. After over two decades of political life, she embodies resilience in the public life, and political vision and fortitude. The BJP (ruling Indian party) leader recently defined Hasina at a political meeting as a "true Jananetry (leader of the people)". "You are one of the rare leaders who can really be described as a true Jananetry not only in your country but in the entire sub-continent", he said.

In fact, she, like Gandhi, has devoted her life to the non-violent emancipation of her country. With the slight difference that Gandhi was fighting oppression from abroad, whereas Sheikh Hasina's demons are within: graft, terrorism and corruption. Like Gandhi, she has also paid her pound of flesh in serving her country. Almost her entire family was murdered, including her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president of Bangladesh, killed in 1975.

Since then, 19 failed attempts on her life have been made, to chase her away from power. Even in India, known for its rampant sexism within political parties, the Prime Minister was forced to praise Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking a strong stance against terrorism, despite being a woman, consistent with her unflinching refusal of political violence.

Throughout her various positions, Sheikh Hasina has shown her inclination to keeping sound relationships with all countries, neighbours or not, Muslim or not (Bangladesh is the fourth largest Muslim country in the world). She cultivates many relationships in the western world, and even had her position (and perhaps life) saved by neighboring Indian intelligence services when a coup d'etat was under way in her country. Her relationships with minorities have always been respectful and constructive. On Christmas of 2016, she seized the opportunity to visit the microscopic Bangladeshi Catholic community, to call out to Pope Francis: "I thank Pope Francis for appointing a Bengali as cardinal," she said. Turning to newly elected Card Patrick D'Rozario, she added, "Your eminence, I ask not to work only for Christians, but for the welfare of the whole country, as you have done in the past."

Sheikh Hasina runs for Bangladesh, but rejects nationalism. Her relationship with nationalists in Bangladesh has been nothing short of acrimonious, with blows ranging from judicial intimidation to assassination attempts, and forced exile. In her latest election, nationalists rejected the results, despite visible support from the population. In fact, any form of political violence, including nationalism, is logically unacceptable to a woman who lost so much to it.

In the 2016 Awami League rally, the PM's historical party, Sheikh Hasani was praised by all neighboring country representatives, namely on her firm stance against violence. In the wake of last October's attacks in Dhaka, the government has been cracking down on terrorist cells. Rupak Bhattarcharjee writes in the opinion that – The developments over the last few weeks amply demonstrated Hasina-led Awami League (AL) government's commitment to its "zero-tolerance" policy towards violent religious extremism and terrorism.

Throughout her premierships, Sheikh Hasina has also proven a remarkably effective and un-dogmatic leader. Heeding the British motto – if what you're doing doesn't work, do something else, she has tried the most surprising moves in order to reach her political goals. She did so when she privatised the telecommunications sector, which the administration was entrusted with. Service was kept for the administration, and she had to privatise it in order to grant telecommunications access to the population.

She is doing it again, on a resource even more valuable: water. In 2014, a joint partnership was signed between the Bangladeshi government, private water-engineering firm Veolia, the Asian Development Bank and the European Investment bank. Until now, water management had been in the hands of the administration to no avail. Her aim is not only to provide clean and safe water to 100 per cent of Bangladeshis, up from barely 40 per cent today, but even to pave the way for other developing countries and become an international reference in environment sound practices.

The Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project (DESWSP) is ambitious, with deadly arsenic levels crawling through the country's rivers, in good part imported from China and India. But coming from a woman who remains undeterred with so many assassination attempts in the course of serving her country, one can hardly be surprised with the ambition.

It is hard to see the return of PM Sheikh Hasina as anything but good news. Nationalism is causing unrest and instability in the Middle-East, in Crimea, in Central Europe, in Pakistan, and many other hotbeds, and anyone fighting it is an ally. A sound relationship between the west and a major Muslim country can prove a useful stepping stone in the normalization of relationships. The arrival of general access to clean and safe water will inevitably foster economic development in Bangladesh, and therefore further stability and trade.

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