Bangladesh mourns founder Mujib with heir in jail | world | Hindustan Times
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Bangladesh mourns founder Mujib with heir in jail

world Updated: Aug 15, 2007 12:25 IST

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Bangladesh paid tribute to slain Independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at a state ceremony on Wednesday, but stopped short of formally declaring him the father of the nation.

Mujibur, popularly known as Mujib, led an Independence struggle in former East Pakistan until March 25, 1971, when Pakistani troops whisked him away to then West Pakistan.

He was interned there for nine months while his followers led the country, now Bangladesh, to Independence in December of that year after a nine-month guerrilla war aided by India. Mujib came back home in January 1972 and took the reins of the war-ravaged, south Asian country.

But he was killed along with most members of his family by rebel army officers on August 15, 1975, setting the country on a long course of military rule.

Sheikh Hasina, one of Mujib's two daughters who survived the family's massacre because they were abroad at the time, returned home in 1981, took charge of his Awami League party and became prime minister in 1996.

Hasina's government honoured Mujib as the father of Bangladeshi nation and declared August 15 as a national day of mourning and holiday.

But her rival Begum Khaleda Zia, the most recent prime minister, cancelled the holiday, despite protests by Mujib's followers.

The rivalry between the two women simmered anew after the Awami League accused Khaleda's husband, the late president General Ziaur Rahman, of being the beneficiary of Mujib's killing.

General Zia was also killed in an abortive military coup on May 30, 1981.

Now, with Bangladesh being run by an army-backed interim government headed by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed, the demand for declaring Mujib father of the nation has gathered fresh momentum.

Army chief General Moeen U Ahmed said publicly that Mujib should be given his due honour as the top independence leader.

President Iajuddin Ahmed, who holds a ceremonial post but is the constitutional head of the armed forces, joined Fakhruddin on Wednesday in paying respect to the slain leader.

"We urge the (interim) government to restore Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to his full honour and declare him the father of the nation," said Zillur Rahman, acting Awami chief, on Wednesday.

With Hasina now in jail on charges of extortion while in power, and the country under emergency rule, the Awami League quietly marked Mujib's 32nd death anniversary.

Iajuddin and Fakhruddin flew to Tungipara in southwestern Gopalganj district and laid wreaths at the tomb of Mujib.

The killers buried Mujib at Tungipara, his ancestral village, while they buried his wife, three sons and a host of relatives at a Dhaka graveyard.