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The sovereign and independent People's Republic of Bangladesh, as it stands today, is indebted to Bangabandhu.
PTI | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON NOV 16, 2006 06:11 PM IST

President: Iajuddin Ahmed

Dr Iajuddin Ahmed took charge as the interim head of the state after Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) failed to strike a deal with the opposition Awami League.

Under the constitution, Ahmed can retain his position as president and act as the head of the interim administration, which has to hold elections within three months.

Ahmed, the 17th President of Bangladesh, was born in a respectable Muslim family of the village Nayagaon under Munshiganj district on February 1, 1931.

After obtaining his MS and Ph D degrees from the Wisconsin University of the United States in 1958 and 1962, Ahmed joined Dhaka University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Soil Science in 1963. His professional career was distinguished with extraordinary credentials.

Before being declared as the country's next president, he was the vice-chancellor of a private university named State University of Bangladesh.

He has to his credit as many as 125 research papers published in different newspapers and journals at home and abroad.

He got various awards including Ibrahim Memorial Gold Medal in 1987- 88, Sri Gjyan Atish Dipanker Gold Medal in 1990, Crest (Adafs) in 1991 and Ekushey Award for Education in 1995.

BNP chief Khaleda Zia

Khaleda Zia came to power following a landslide election victory in October 2001 of the four-party alliance led by her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Widow of former president Ziaur Rahman, who was assassinated in a coup attempt in 1981, Zia became leader of Rahman's Bangladesh National Party in 1984.

She was the first female prime minister in Bangladesh, and held office between 1991 and 1996. She succeeded Sheikh Hasina, who stepped down at the end of her five-year term. Hers was the first elected government in the history of the country to serve its full five-year term.

Khaleda Zia was born to Iskandar Majumder, a businessman, and Taiyaba Majumder at Dinajpur district in north-western Bangladesh in 1945.

In 1960, she got married to Ziaur Rahman. Her husband, one of the prominent heroes of the country's liberation war, later became the president of the Republic and formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Until the assassination of president Ziaur Rahman in an abortive military coup in Chittagong on May 30, 1981, Khaleda Zia had taken little interest in either politics or public life.

Even when her husband was propelled to power after the political changes in 1975, she remained a shy and withdrawn housewife who devoted most of her time grooming up her two sons.

After the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman, his vice-president Justice Abdus Sattar took over as the acting president and also the chairman of the BNP which the slain president founded in 1978.

Within four months of the presidential election in November 1981, the then Chief of Army Staff General HM Ershad overthrew Justice Sattar and the BNP government. On March 24, 1982, he proclaimed martial law .

In March 1983, Justice Sattar appointed Khaleda Zia a vice-chairman of BNP. On February 1984, she became the chairperson as Justice Sattar retired from politics. On August 10, the same year, the party elected her the chairperson.

Meanwhile, BNP formed a seven-party alliance in September 1983 to step up movement against the autocratic regime of General Ershad. Khaleda was detained seven times during almost nine years of autocratic rule.

In the face of mass upsurge spearheaded by Khaleda-led seven-party alliance and the eight-party combine led by Hasina, President Ershad resigned on December 6, 1990. He handed over power to a neutral caretaker government, bringing an end to his nine-year autocratic rule.

In 1991, she became the country's first woman prime minister through a free and fair general election on February 27, 1991 and formed the government.

She became prime minister for the second consecutive term after the BNP had a landslide victory in February 15, 1996 general election to the sixth Jatiya Sangsad. The election was, however, boycotted by all other major parties.

In the June 12, 1996 polls, BNP lost to Sheikh Hasina's Awami League but emerged as the largest opposition party in the country's parliamentary history with 116 seats.

Aiming to return to power, the BNP formed a four-party opposition alliance on January 6, 1999 with the Jatiya Party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Oikya Jote and launched several agitation programmes against the ruling Awami League.

The alliance then participated in the October 1 general election and won the polls with a two-third majority and Khaleda Zia was once again sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Other key figures

Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina:  She was born on September 28, 1947 at Tungipara under Gopalgonj district. She is the eldest of five children of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

She graduated from the University of Dhaka in 1973. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with the members of his family was killed on the night of 15 August 1975.

Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana were the only survivors as they were in West Germany at that time.

Later, she went to the United Kingdom. Sheikh Hasina lived in self-exile in New Delhi. Ending six years in exile, she returned home finally on May 17, 1981 when Ziaur Rahman was president.

Sheikh Hasina steered a movement for Non-party caretaker government. The provision for non-party caretaker government was eventually incorporated in the Constitution in March 1996.
 
In the parliamentary election, held on June 12, 1996, Awami League emerged as the majority party and she assumed the office of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on June 23, 1996.

Her government signed the 30-year Ganges Water Sharing Treaty with India, Peace Accord on Chittagong Hill Tracts and inaugurated the Bangabandhu Bridge on the River Jamuna.

Sheikh Hasina was awarded UNESCO's Houphouet-Biogny Peace Prize for 1998 for the agreement on Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The All India Peace Council awarded her 'Mother Teresa Award' for 1998 and the Mahatma MK Gandhi Foundation of Oslo, Norway 'MK Gandhi Award' for 1998. Author of several books, she is married to Dr Wajed Mia, a nuclear scientist, having one son and one daughter.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The sovereign and independent People's Republic of Bangladesh, as it stands today, is indebted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (March 17, 1917 - August 5, 1975) for his outstanding role.

Bangabandhu - who stood for Bengalee Nationalism - first fought against the British colonial overlords and then directed his wrath against the then Pakistani neocolonialists.

From his imprisonment in 1949, he backed the first mass-based opposition political party, the Awami League, under the leadership of Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, which subsequently spearheaded the struggle for independence. In the 1954 provincial elections, the Bengalees overwhelmingly voted the Awami League-led United Front to power.

However, in order to maintain their sway and dominance, the rulers in the western wing of Pakistan imposed military rule in 1958.

In 1966, Bangabandhu gave his famous 6-Point Formula seeking autonomy for East Pakistan. People rallied round him and a strong mass movement was built up in the country.

Sheikh Mujib was hauled back into jail and subsequently a charge of secession and high treason was brought against him - known as the infamous Agartala Conspiracy Case.

In and out of jail, Sheikh Mujib emerged stronger than before and in the elections of 1970 his party had a landslide victory capturing 167 out of 169 parliamentary seats in the fray.

When the Pakistani rulers refused to honour the mandate of the people and transfer power to him as their lawful leader, on March 7, 1971, he asked the people to get ready for the impending independence struggle. The Pakistani troops cracked down on the unarmed people of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) on the night of March 25, 1971.

A provisional revolutionary government was formed on April 17, 1971 in Mujibnagar, the temporary capital, with Sheikh Mujib as the president in absentia.

The people of Bangladesh organised one of the most effective guerilla wars of modern time.

The nine-month-long liberation war, which cost three million lives, saw the most glorious chapter of gallantry and patriotism in the checkered history of Bangladesh. On December 16, 1971 the war came to a victorious end, with the active support of Indian Army, and independent Bangladesh was born.

To free his people from the colonial yoke Mujib spent more than sixteen years of his life in confinement. On January 10, 1972 Sheikh Mujib came back to his jubilant people and took the charge of the new-born country. His prime goal was to restore the glory of Sonar Bangla or the land of gold, as it was known in the days of yore.

In the early hours of August 15, 1975 Sheikh Mujib was killed along with his family members except his two daughters Sheikh Hasina (who was later prime minister of Bangladesh) and Sheikh Rehana who were then staying abroad.

Ziaur Rahman: Born in the district of Bogra, Bangladesh, in 1936, Ziaur Rahman joined the Pakistan Army in 1953 and was commissioned in 1955.

During the Indo-Pak war of 1965, Ziaur Rahman, as a captain, was commander of a company of the First East Bengal Regiment and fought gallantly in the Khemkaran sector.

He did his staff college in 1966 and the same year was appointed instructor at the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul.

Following the Pakistan Army's crackdown on the unarmed people of Bangladesh on the night of March 25,1971, he made history as a major in the East Bengal Regiment in Chittagong with his declaration of independence from the make-shift Transmission Centre of Chittagong Radio at Kalurghat.

In June 1971, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh he raised the first brigade of the Bangladesh Army which was named after him 'Z' force.

After liberation of Bangladesh, he commanded the same brigade at Comilla. In June 1972 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Army Staff. In August 1975 Major General Zia became the Chief of Army Staff.

His appointment as Deputy Chief Martial law Administrator following the change of government and popular upsurge of November 7, 1975 brought to him to the centre stage of national life.

Zia founded BNP and allowed all the other parties including Awami League to restart functioning.

Lieutenant General Ziaur Rahman was sworn in as the President of Bangladesh on April 21, 1977. He was elected the President of the Republic on June 3, 1978.

Zia infused dynamism in the foreign policy of Bangladesh. In a short time, under Zia's leadership, Bangladesh was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and to numerous international forums including the Chairman of the Group of 77. 

He also mooted the very idea of regional cooperation in South Asia, SAARC. 'Village government', the lowest tier of local government that he had introduced still remains a popular concept. He undertook the construction of the Teesta Barrage, during his rather short tenure of office, to tackle the problems of the river Teesta mobilising local resources and depending on engineering talents within the country to design it.

He was assassinated by a group of misguided Army officers on May 30, 1981 in Chittagong.  He is survived by his wife Begum Khaleda Zia and their two sons and a host of grand children.

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