New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Bahrain's Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, world's longest-serving prime minister, passed away on Wednesday, the state media announced. Prince Khalifa, who held the PM"s post in the island nation since 1971, was 84 years old. Khalifa led the island nation's government for decades and survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests that demanded his ouster over corruption allegations. Prince Khalifa was a controversial figure during his long time in office -- and deeply unpopular with the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shiite population, news agency AFP reported.

Born on November 24, 1935, Khalifa began to attend his father’s royal court at the age of seven along with his elder brother, Prince Issa. He was named in 1970 as the head of the state council, the executive branch of government which became the council of ministers after independence from Britain. He conducted difficult negotiations with the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, before independence over Shiite Iran’s claims to the islands.

A referendum to determine Bahrain’s future resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of independence under the rule of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, despite the sizeable Shiite population — whose size is disputed by the government to this day. Prince Khalifa strove for many years to establish Bahrain as a regional financial hub. Unlike other Gulf states, the kingdom has only modest oil resources.

Working closely with his brother, the late emir Sheikh Issa bin Salman al-Khalifa, he favoured strong ties with Washington. Ties have since continued to grow, with Bahrain now hosting the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet as one of Washington’s most trusted allies in the region.

Following Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Bahrain witnessed renewed pro-democracy protests coupled with pressure from the United States and Britain.

The prince represented an older style of Gulf leadership, one that granted patronage and favors for support of the Sunni Al Khalifa family. That style would be challenged in the 2011 protests by the island's Shiite majority and others, who demonstrated against him over long-running corruption allegations surrounding his rule.

(With agency inputs)

Posted By: Rakesh Kumar Jha