Ziaur Rahman was a prominent figure in the history of Bangladesh, who played a key role in the country’s liberation from Pakistan and its subsequent development as a democratic nation. Here is a brief biography of his life and achievements:Ziaur Rahman
Ziaur Rahman was born on 19 January 1936 in Bagbari, a village in the Bogra district of East Bengal, which was then part of British India. He belonged to a Bengali Muslim family that traced its ancestry to the Majumder clan of the Barisal region. He received his early education at the local school and later attended the D. J. Science College in Karachi, where he excelled in sports and academics. He joined the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad in 1953 and graduated in 1955 as a second lieutenant in the Pakistan Army. He was assigned to the East Bengal Regiment, a unit composed mostly of Bengali soldiers.
Ziaur Rahman served in various posts in the Pakistan Army, including as a paratrooper, a staff officer, and a commander. He participated in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, where he fought against the Indian Army in the Kashmir region. He was awarded the Hilal-i-Jur’at, the second-highest military award of Pakistan, for his bravery and leadership in the war. He also received a Maroon Parachute Wing, a badge of honor for paratroopers, from the Pakistani president. He later attended the Command and Staff College in Quetta, where he completed his staff course in 1966.
In 1971, when the Pakistan Army launched a brutal crackdown on the Bengali population of East Pakistan, Ziaur Rahman joined the resistance movement that sought to liberate the region from Pakistani rule. He was one of the senior officers who defected from the Pakistan Army and formed the Bangladesh Forces, the military wing of the provisional government of Bangladesh. He was appointed as the commander of Sector 1, which covered the Chittagong and Sylhet regions. He also commanded the Z Force, a brigade-sized formation of guerrilla fighters. He became famous for broadcasting the declaration of independence of Bangladesh on 27 March 1971 from a captured radio station in Kalurghat, Chittagong. He said:
This is Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, at the direction of Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, hereby declare that the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh has been established. At his direction, I have taken command as the temporary Head of the Republic. In the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I call upon all Bengalis to rise against the attack by the West Pakistani Army. We shall fight to the last to free our Motherland. By the grace of Allah, victory is ours. Joy Bangla.
Ziaur Rahman led several successful operations against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War, which lasted for nine months and ended with the surrender of the Pakistani forces on 16 December 1971. He was promoted to the rank of colonel and awarded the Bir Uttom, the second-highest gallantry award of Bangladesh, for his contributions to the war. He was also honored by the Indian government with the Padma Shri, a civilian award, for his role in the war.
After the independence of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman continued his military career and became a brigadier general in 1972. He was appointed as the deputy chief of army staff in 1974 and later as the chief of army staff in 1975. He was involved in the political turmoil that followed the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father and president of Bangladesh, on 15 August 1975 by a group of junior army officers. Ziaur Rahman supported the coup that ousted the killers and brought Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, a former minister, to power as the president. He was made the chief martial law administrator by Ahmad and given wide-ranging powers to run the country. He later became the vice president and the prime minister under President Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem, who replaced Ahmad in November 1975.
Ziaur Rahman became the president of Bangladesh on 21 April 1977, after Sayem resigned due to ill health. He lifted the martial law and held the first general elections in the country in June 1978, in which he won a landslide victory as an independent candidate. He founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in September 1978 as a political platform to unite the people of Bangladesh under the ideals of nationalism, democracy, and development. He also introduced a new constitution in November 1978, which made Bangladesh a parliamentary republic with a multi-party system. He faced several coup attempts and assassination plots during his presidency, but he managed to survive them with the support of the army and the people.
Ziaur Rahman pursued a pragmatic and balanced foreign policy, which aimed to improve the relations of Bangladesh with its neighbors and the world. He normalized the ties with Pakistan, which had been strained since the war of 1971, and signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with India, which had been the main ally of Bangladesh in the war. He also established diplomatic relations with China, the Soviet Union, and other countries, and joined various regional and international organizations, such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. He promoted the economic and social development of Bangladesh, which had been devastated by the war and the subsequent famine. He initiated various reforms and projects in the fields of agriculture, industry, education, health, and infrastructure, which boosted the growth and welfare of the country.
Ziaur Rahman was assassinated on 30 May 1981, while he was visiting Chittagong, the second-largest city of Bangladesh. He was killed by a group of army officers who staged a mutiny against his government. His death sparked a nationwide outcry and a political crisis, which was resolved by the election of his vice president, Abdus Sattar, as the president. Ziaur Rahman was buried in a mausoleum in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where thousands of people pay their respects to him every year. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders and heroes of Bangladesh, who fought for its independence and democracy. He is also remembered as the founder and the first chairman of the BNP, which is one of the major political parties of Bangladesh. He is survived by his wife, Khaleda Zia, who became the prime minister of Bangladesh three times, and his two sons, Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman.