Begum Khaleda Zia

Biography of Begum Khaleda Zia

Begum Khaleda Zia is a prominent Bangladeshi politician who served as the prime minister of Bangladesh twice, from 1991 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2006. She is the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), one of the largest political parties in the country. She is also the widow of former president Ziaur Rahman, who founded the BNP in 1978 and was assassinated in 1981.

Khaleda Zia was born as Khaleda Khanam Putul in 1945 in Jalpaiguri, Bengal Presidency, British India (now in West Bengal, India). She was the third of five children of Iskandar Majumder, a businessman, and Taiyaba Majumder. She completed her matriculation exam in 1960 and attended Surendranath College in Dinajpur. In 1959, she married Ziaur Rahman, a military officer who later became a leader of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. During the war, she was kept under house arrest by the Pakistani army, while her husband fought for the independence of Bangladesh.

After the war, Ziaur Rahman became a prominent politician and rose to the presidency in 1977. Khaleda Zia remained largely uninterested in politics until her husband was killed by a group of military officers in 1981. She then became politically active and took over the leadership of the BNP in 1984. She faced several arrests and harassment during the military dictatorship of Hussain Muhammad Ershad in the 1980s, but she led the opposition movement for democracy until Ershad’s fall in 1990.

In 1991, she became the first woman prime minister of Bangladesh and the second in the Muslim world, after Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. She led a coalition government that focused on economic reforms, education, and women’s empowerment. She also faced natural disasters, such as a devastating cyclone in 1991 that killed more than 130,000 people and caused massive damage. She won a second term in 1996, but the election was boycotted by the opposition parties, who accused her of rigging the polls. She stepped down after a few months and handed over power to a caretaker government.

In 2001, she returned to power with a landslide victory, leading a four-party alliance that included Islamist parties. She pursued a pro-business and pro-Islamic agenda, but also faced allegations of corruption, human rights violations, and political violence. She also faced a series of bomb attacks by Islamist militants, as well as a mutiny by border guards in 2009 that killed dozens of army officers. She completed her term in 2006 and handed over power to another caretaker government.

Since then, she has been in a bitter rivalry with her main political opponent, Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the Awami League and the current prime minister of Bangladesh. She has boycotted several elections and led violent street protests against Hasina’s government, demanding a neutral caretaker government to oversee the polls. She has also faced several legal cases and convictions on charges of corruption, abuse of power, and inciting violence. She has been in and out of jail and hospital since 2018, and her health condition has been a matter of concern and controversy.

Khaleda Zia is widely regarded as one of the most influential and controversial figures in Bangladeshi politics. She has a loyal base of supporters, especially among the conservative and rural sections of the society, who admire her for her courage, charisma, and nationalist vision. She has also faced criticism and opposition from the secular and liberal sections of the society, who accuse her of being authoritarian, corrupt, and divisive. She has been honored with several awards and recognitions, both nationally and internationally, for her contributions to democracy, development, and peace. She is the mother of two sons, Tarique and Arafat, who are also involved in politics.


(1) Khaleda Zia – Wikipedia.
(2) Khaleda Zia | Biography & Facts | Britannica.
(4) Khaleda Zia Bio Childhood Career & Children | Biographybd.
(5) Begum Khaleda Zia – Archives of Women’s Political Communication.

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