|7th President of Bangladesh|
21 April 1977 – 30 May 1981
|Prime Minister||Mashiur Rahman (Acting)
Shah Azizur Rahman
|Preceded by||Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem|
|Succeeded by||Abdus Sattar|
|Chief of Army Staff|
24 August 1975 – 3 November 1975
|Preceded by||K M Shafiullah|
|Succeeded by||Khaled Mosharraf|
7 November 1975 – February 1979
|Preceded by||Khaled Mosharraf|
|Succeeded by||Hussain Muhammad Ershad|
19 January 1936|
Bagbari, Bengal Presidency, British India
(now Bogra, Bangladesh)
|Died||30 May 1981
|Political party||Bangladesh Nationalist Party|
|Children||Tareq Rahman Pinu
Arafat Rahman Koko
|Alma mater||D. J. Science College
Pakistan Military Academy
Command and Staff College
|Profession||Military Officer, Politician|
Order of the Nile
Pakistan (before 1971)
|Service/branch|| Pakistan Army
|Years of service||1953–1971 (Pakistan),
Ziaur Rahman (Bengali: জিয়াউর রহমান Ji-yaur Rôhman) (19 January 1936 – 30 May 1981) was a Bangladeshi politician and first military dictator who served as the 7th President of Bangladesh from 21 April 1977 until his death in 30 May 1981. He was the announcer of the Bangladesh Liberation War on behalf of Bangabandhu. He formed and was commander of the Central Sector, BDF (Bangladesh Defense Forces) Sector 11, during the nations war of independence in 1971. Later turned politician, he formed one of the largest political parties, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 1978.
A highly decorated and accomplished military officer, he was awarded Bir Uttom (the highest gallantry award for a living military personnel) for his wartime services, and retired from the Bangladesh Army as a Lieutenant General in 1979. During his administration as military ruler he founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). He is popularly known as Shaheed President Zia, meaning "martyred President Zia," in reference to his 1981 assassination.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Excel in Pakistani Military
- 3 Role model for aspiring Bengali army officers
- 4 Pre-liberation
- 5 Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971
- 6 Assassination of Mujib in 1975 and its aftermath
- 7 President of Bangladesh
- 8 Assassination
- 9 Criticism and legacy
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Ziaur Rahman, popularly known as Zia, was the second son of Mansur Rahman and Jahanara Khatun. His father was a chemist who specialised in paper and ink chemistry and worked for a government department at Writer's Building in Kolkata. As a child Ziaur Rahman, nicknamed Komol, was reserved, shy, quietly spoken, and intense in many respects. He was raised in a village named Bagbari, in Bogra, British India.
In 1946, Mansur Rahman, for a short stint, enrolled Zia in one of the leading boys schools of Calcutta—Hare School—where Zia studied until the dissolution of the British Empire in South Asia and creation of India in 1947. On 14 August 1947, Mansur Rahman, became a citizen of Pakistan, like many Muslims working for the former British government in India, exercised his option to become a citizen of a Muslim majority Pakistan and moved to Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan located in Sindh, West Pakistan. Zia, at the age of 11, had become a student in class 6(six) at the Academy School in Karachi in 1947. Zia spent his adolescent years in Karachi and by age 16 completed his secondary education from that School in 1952.
In 1953, Zia was admitted into the D.J. College in Karachi. In the same year he joined the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul as an officer cadet. Zia's character and style as one of the most effective leaders in the colonised world was largely shaped by the issues, attitudes, and events during his years at the Academy School.
Marriage to Khaleda Majumder
In August 1960, his marriage was arranged to Khaleda Majumder (who subsequently converted her maiden name to Khaleda Zia and became Prime Minister of Bangladesh for 3 times), the 15-year-old daughter of Iskandar Majumder and Taiyaba Majumder from the Dinajpur District, in a simple ceremony. Ziaur Rahman, a Captain in the then Pakistani Army who was posted at that time as an Officer of the Defence Forces. His father, Mansur Rahman could not attend the marriage ceremony, as he was in Karachi. Zia's mother had died earlier. The wedding reception took place after one year in the then Hotel Shahbag, which later became the PG Hospital
Excel in Pakistani Military
Graduating from the Pakistan Military Academy at 12th PMA long course in 18 September 1955 in the top 10% of his class, Ziaur Rahman was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Pakistan Army.In the army, he received commando training, became a paratrooper and received training in a special intelligence course. Zia went to East Pakistan on a short visit and was amazed by the negative attitude of the Bengali middle class towards the military, which consumed a large chunk of the country's resources. The low representation of the Bengalis in the military was largely due to discrimination, but Ziaur Rahman felt that the Bengali attitude towards the military perhaps prevented promising young Bengali from seeking military careers. As a Bengali army officer he became a staunch advocate of military careers for Bengali youth. Zia argued that Bengali attitudes would change when they were in a position to share the resources and power of the military which was traditionally enjoyed by West Pakistanis, particularly those from the Punjab and Northwest Frontier provinces. After serving for two years in Karachi, he was transferred to the East Bengal Regiment in 1957. He attended military training schools in West Germany and UK. He also worked in the military intelligence department from 1959 to 1964.
Role model for aspiring Bengali army officers
Ayub Khan's highly successful military rule from 1958 to 1968 further convinced Zia of the need for a fundamental change in the Bengali attitude towards the military. During that period Zia offered a role model for Bengali youth, excelling in his army career. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Ziaur Rahman made his mark as a valiant fighter whilst serving in the Khemkaran sector in Punjab as the commander of a company unit of 300–500 soldiers. The sector was the scene of the most intense battles between the rival armies. Zia's unit won one of the highest numbers of gallantry awards for heroic performances. Ziaur Rahman himself won the distinguished and prestigious Hilal-i-Jur'at (Crescent of Courage) medal, Pakistan’s second highest military award, and his unit won 2 Sitara-e-Jurat (Star of Courage) medals, the third highest military award, and 9 Tamgha-e-Jurat (Medal of Courage) medals, fourth highest award, from the Army for their brave roles in the 1965 War with India. In 1966, Zia was appointed military instructor at the Pakistan Military Academy, later going on to attend the prestigious Command and Staff College in Quetta, Pakistan, where he completed a course in command and tactical warfare. Advocating that the Pakistan Army make greater efforts to recruit and encourage Bengali military officers, Zia helped raise two Bengali battalions called the 8th and 9th Bengals during his stint as instructor. Around the same time, his wife Khaleda Zia, now 23, gave birth to their first child Tarique Rahman (more popularly known as Tareq Zia, in reminiscent of his father's main name) on 20 November 1964.Very soon Ziaur Rahman, the father, would have to combine his newfound paternal instinct with his military expertise for a longsuffering deprived nation hungry for justice. Trained for high-ranking command posts, Zia joined the 2nd East Bengal regiment as its second-in-command at Joydebpur in Gazipur district, near Dhaka, in 1969. Although sectarian tensions between East and West Pakistan were intensifying, Zia travelled to West Germany to receive advanced military and command training with the German Army and later on spent few months with the British Army.
Zia returned to Pakistan the following year, and witnessed political turmoil and regional division. Upon his return, Zia attained the rank of Major and was transferred in October 1970 to the 8th East Bengal regiment stationed in Chittagong to serve as its second-in-command. East Pakistan had been devastated by the 1970 Bhola cyclone, and the population had been embittered by the slow response of the central government. The political conflict between Pakistan's two major parties, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Awami League, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's PPP. The 1970 Pakistan Parliamentary elections which Maulana Bhasani advised Mujib not to call or participate in, the Pakistan Awami League had won a majority. Pakistan President Yahya Khan and PPP chair Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had brought sectarian tensions to a climax. Sheikh Mujib laid claim to form a government, but Yahya Khan postponed the convening of the legislature under pressure from Bhutto's party.
Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971
Following the failure of last-ditch talks, Yahya Khan declared martial law and ordered the army to crack down on Bengali political activities and arrested Sheikh Mujib before mid-night 26 March 1971, and taken to Tejgaon International Airport and flown to West Pakistan. Zia who already by then geared to revolt against the government of Pakistan, was preparing to defect, and later arrested and executed his commanding officer Lt. Col. Janjua, revolted  and broadcast the announcement of the Declaration of Independence on the evening hours of 26 March 1971 from the captured Kalurghat radio station in Chittagong which read:
This is Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, Provincial Head of the government, do hereby declare that Independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
On 27 March 1971, a second broadcast was read:
I, Major Ziaur Rahman, do hereby declare the Independence of Bangladesh in the name of our great leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Later in an interview with German Radio, Ziaur Rahman talked about his March 27 announcement (Radio interview).
Zia organised an infantry unit gathering all Bengali soldiers from military and EPR units in Chittagong. He designated it Sector No. 1 with its HQ in Sabroom. A few weeks later, it was restructured officially under Bangladesh Forces as the sector in the Chittagong and Hill Tracts area, under General M. A. G. Osmani, the Supreme Commander of Bangladesh Forces, of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh HQ'd at 8 Theatre Road, Calcutta, WB, India. On 30 June 1971 Zia was appointed the commander of the first conventional brigade of the Bangladesh Forces, which was named "Z Force", after the first initial of his name, followed by K-forces in August and S-force in September, named after Major Khaled Musharraf and Major Shafiullah respectively. His brigade consisted of 1st, 3rd and 8th East Bengali regiments, enabling Zia to launch major attacks on Pakistani forces. Having earned a reputation for courageous leadership during the course of the war and reading the declaration of independence of Bangladesh in a critical time, Zia was awarded the Bir Uttom, the second-highest military honour (and the highest for living officers) by the Government of Bangladesh.
Assassination of Mujib in 1975 and its aftermath
On 15 August 1975 President Mujibur Rahman and his family were brutally assassinated at home in a coup staged by a group of military officers and soldiers. One of Mujibur Rahman's cabinet ministers and leading conspirator Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad gained the presidency. He subsequently appointed the then deputy chief of army staff Major General Ziaur Rahman as the army chief after removal of Major General K M Shafiullah. However, the coup of 15 August caused a period of instability and unrest in Bangladesh and more so across the ranks and files of the army. Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf and the 46th Brigade of Dhaka Cantonment under Colonel Shafat Jamil made a counter-coup on 3 November 1975, and Ziaur Rahman was forced to relingquish his post as Army chief and was put under house arrest. A mutiny was staged by the JSD under retired Lieutenant Colonel Abu Taher and a group of socialist military officers and supporters of the left-wing National Socialist Party on 7 November, called the "National Revolution and Solidarity Day" (Sipoy-Janata Biplob) (Soldiers and People's Coup). Khaled Mosharraf was killed and Colonel Jamil arrested, while Ziaur Rahman was freed by the 2nd Artillery regiment under Lt. Col. Rashid and re-appointed him as army chief.
Following a major meeting at the army headquarters, an interim government was formed with Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem as chief martial law administrator and Major General Ziaur Rahman, Air Vice Marshal M. G. Tawab and Rear Admiral M. H. Khan as his deputies. However, discipline in the army had totally collapsed and it was difficult to disarm the soldiers and put them back to the barracks. Under anxiety that Abu Taher, who had actually planned to grab power through another organised revolt, Zia ordered his arrest. Following a secret trial in a military court, Zia authorised the execution of Taher on 21 July 1976. Zia became the chief martial law administrator following Justice Sayem's elevation to the presidency on 19 November 1976. He tried to integrate the armed forces, giving repatriates a status appropriate to their qualifications and seniority. While this angered some veterans of the independence war, who had rapidly reached high positions following independence in 1971, Zia defused potential threats from discontented officers by sending them on diplomatic missions abroad.
President of Bangladesh
Ziaur Rahman became the 7th President of Bangladesh on 21 April 1977. Years of disorder from the previous political administration of the Awami League and BAKSAL had left most of Bangladesh's state institutions in disarray, with constant internal and external threats. Assuming full control of the state, Zia lifted martial law and introduced massive reforms for the development of the country.
In late September 1977, a group of Japanese Red Army terrorists hijacked an airplane and forced it to land in Dhaka. On 30 September, while the attention of the government was riveted on this event, a mutiny broke out in Bogra. Although the mutiny was quickly quelled on the night of 2 October, a second mutiny started in Dhaka, led by disgruntled airmen of BAF. The mutineers unsuccessfully attacked Zia's residence, captured Dhaka Radio for a short time and killed a good number of air force officers and airmen at Tejgaon International Airport, where they were gathered for negotiations with the hijackers. Wing Commander M. Hamidullah Khan BP (Sector Commander BDF Sector 11), then BAF Ground Defense Commander, quickly put down the rebellion within the Air Force, but the government was severely shaken. Chief of Air Staff AVM AG Mahmud reappointed Wing Commander Hamidullah as Provost Marshal of Bangladesh Air Force. Government intelligence had failed and Zia promptly dismissed the DGFI chief, AVM Aminul Islam Khan BAF, of 9th GD formerly of PAF, and also the DG-NSI. Special tribunals dealt harshly with the large groups of bandits, smugglers and guerrilla bands operating across the country. The size of Bangladesh police forces was doubled and the number of soldiers of the army increased from 50,000 to 90,000.
When Ziaur Rahman assumed the presidency, he revived the multiparty system and restored freedom of the press. In 1978 he appointed Hussain Muhammad Ershad as the new Chief of Army Staff, promoting him to the rank of Lieutenant General. He was viewed as a professional soldier with no political aspirations (because of his imprisonment in former West Pakistan during the Bangladesh War of Independence) who possessed a soft corner for India. Quietly Ershad rose to became Zia's close politico-military counselor. In 1981 he brought back Mujib's daughter Hasina Wazed to Bangladesh.
Domestic and foreign policies
Zia had taken a forward head start charge of a nation suffering from illiteracy, severe poverty, chronic unemployment, shortages and economic stagnation. Mujib initiated state commitment to socialism, following Indira's advice under the Soviet bloc was foregone with. Zia announced a "19-point programme" of economic emancipation which emphasised self-reliance, rural development, decentralisation, free markets and population control. Zia worked energetically and spent much of his time traveling throughout the country, preaching the "politics of hope" by continually urging all Bangladeshis to work harder and to produce more. He held cabinet meetings all across Bangladesh Zia focused on boosting agricultural and industrial production, especially in food and grains, and to integrate rural development through a variety of programs, of which population planning was the most important. He introduced and opened the Bangladesh Jute and Rice research institutes. He launched an ambitious rural development program in 1977, which included a highly visible and popular food-for-work program. He promoted private sector development, exports growth and the reversing of the collectivisation of farms. His government reduced quotas and restrictions on agriculture and industrial activities. Zia launched major projects to construct irrigation canals, power stations, dams, roads and other public works. Directing his campaign to mobilise rural support and development, Zia established Gram Sarkar (Village Councils) system of self-government and the "Village Defence Party" system of security and crime prevention. Programmes to promote primary and adult education on a mass scale were initiated and focused mainly across rural Bangladesh. During this period, Bangladesh's economy achieved fast economic and industrial growth.
Zia began reorienting Bangladesh's foreign policy, addressing the concerns of the mostly staunch rightists coupled with some renegade leftist who believed that Bangladesh was reliant on Indian economic and military aid. Zia withdrew from his predecessors' affinity with the Soviet bloc, developing closer relations with the United States and Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Zia also moved to harmonise ties with Saudi Arabia and the People's Republic of China, who had opposed Bangladesh's creation and had not recognised it until 1975. Zia moved to normalise relations with Pakistan. While distancing Bangladesh from India, Zia sought to improve ties with other Islamic nations. Zia's move towards Islamic state policies improved the nation's standing in the Middle East. Zia also proposed an organisation of the nations of South Asia to bolster economic and political co-operation at a regional level. This proposal materialized in 1985 under the Presidency of Hussain Muhammad Ershad with the first meeting of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation in Dhaka. Zia's vision has earned him a posthumous award from the organization.
Islam and nationalism
Zia moved to lead the nation in a new direction, significantly different from the ideology and agenda of India and Sheikh Mujib. He discovered Bangladesh like never before. He found that the massive section of the population was suffering from an identity crisis, both religious and as a people, with a very limited sense of sovereignty. He issued a proclamation order amending the constitution, under whose basis laws would be set in an effort to increase the self-knowledge of religion and nation. In the preamble, he inserted the salutation "Bismillahir-Rahmaanir-Rahim" ("In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful"). In Article 8(1) and 8(1A) the statement "absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah"' was added, replacing the socialist religious free commitment to secularism. Socialism was redefined as "economic and social justice" under his leadership. In Article 25(2), Zia introduced the principle that '"the state shall endeavour to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity.". Zia's edits to the constitution redefined the nature of the republic from the secularism laid out by Sheikh Mujib and his supporters. Later Ershad introduced Islamic religious education as a compulsory subject in Bangladeshi schools, with provisions for non-Muslim students to learn of their own religions.
In public speeches and policies that he formulated, Zia began expounding "Bangladesh Nationalism", its "Sovereignty", as opposed to Mujib's assertion of a Bengali identity based under Awami League social policies and membership. Zia emphasised the national role of Islam as guide to life's principle. Claiming to promote an inclusive national identity, Zia reached out to non-Bengali minorities such as the Santals, Garos, Manipuris and Chakmas, as well as the Urdu-speaking peoples of Bihari origin. He even amended the constitution to change the nationality of the citizens from Bengali, an ethnic identity, to Bangladeshi, a national identity, under sovereign allegiance not political belief or party affiliation. In an effort to promote cultural assimilation and economic development, Zia appointed a Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Commission in 1976, but and initiated holding a political dialogue with the representatives of the hill tribes on the issue of autonomy and cultural self-preservation. On 2 July 1977 Ziaur Rahman organised a tribal convention to promote a dialogue between the government and tribal groups.
After the formation of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 1978, Zia took initiative for formation of political institutes and sponsored workshops for the youth to get active political lessons on Bangladesh nationalism. In such a workshop in September 1980, Zia spoke to the learners,
As Bangladesh's dynamic leader, Zia enacted several controversial measures, some to discipline the army, some to solidify his power and some to win the support of far-right groups including Islamic political parties. However, he took no action against Awami League leaders who were infamous for corruption except ex-President Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, whom he sent to jail on theft charges. He re-introduced multi-party politics and allowed Sheikh Hasina, the exiled daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to return to Bangladesh in 1981. He also allowed the banned Jamaat-e-Islami leaders to do politics under different party name as Islamic Democratic League (IDL). Zia's, who was a leader in the war for independence, was highly criticized as Jamaat-e-Islami collaborated with the Pakistan army, which committed war crimes, and was unsuccessful in preventing Bangladesh's independence. Golam Azam, the exiled chief of the Jammat-e-Islami, was allowed to come back and visit his ill mother to Bangladesh in July 1978 with a Pakistan passport on a visitor's visa, and he remained in Bangladesh following its expiry. No court case was lodged for his trial over his alleged role in committing wartime atrocities. He also facilitated the comeback of other anti-India political entities like Muslim League and other Islamic parties. Zia also reluctantly made highly controversial anti-independence figure Shah Azizur Rahman (who was earlier released from jail by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1973 ) prime minister after the sudden demise of more suitable candidate Mashiur Rahman Jadu Mia  and gave foreign appointments to several men accused of murdering Sheikh Mujib. The Indemnity Ordinance proclaimed by President Mustaque was ratified in the Parliament when Zia's party BNP won a landslide victory in the national election of 1979. The ordinance thereby became Indemnity Act. During the tenure of President Hussain Muhammad Ershad, the Indemnity Act was incorporated as the 5th amendment to the constitution, legalising the military coups, rule under martial law and other political events between 1975 to 1979. Zia also gave Sheikh Mujib's assassins Major Dalim, Major Rashid, and Major Faruk jobs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in subsequent years they were appointed ambassadors of Bangladesh to African and Middle Eastern nations. Shah Azizur Rahman was appointed Bangladesh's prime minister, serving through Zia's tenure in the presidency.
During his term of power, Zia was criticized for ruthless treatment of his army opposition. Although he enjoyed overall popularity and public confidence, Zia's rehabilitation of some of the most controversial men in Bangladesh aroused fierce opposition from the supporters of the Awami League and veterans of its Mukti Bahini. Amidst speculation and fears of unrest, Zia went on tour to Chittagong on 29 May 1981 to help resolve an intra-party political dispute in the regional BNP. Zia and his entourage stayed overnight at the Chittagong Circuit House. In the early hours of the morning of 30 May, he was assassinated by a group of army officers. Also killed were six of his bodyguards and two aides.
It is often said that almost 2 million people attended the funeral held at the Parliament Square.
Criticism and legacy
Ziaur Rahman's role during the period of 15 August 1975 and aftermath is considered controversial. The 15 August 1975 is one of the blackest day in the history of Bangladesh. On that day, Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was murdered along with his family. The Indemnity Act, an ordinance ordered by Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad in 1975 pardoning the subsequently convicted killers of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was legalized by Zia during his tenure as president. Also deeply controversial is Zia's rehabilitation of persons and political groups that had collaborated with the Pakistani army, such as the Jamat-e-Islami. In a verdict passed on the Dhaka High Court declared the seizures of power by military coups between 1975 and 1979, including Zia's military regime as "unlawful and unconstitutional." Zia's martial law decrees, his ascendancy to the presidency in 1977 and the referendum held in 1978 were declared "unknown to the constitution." The court ruling overruled the Indemnity Act by which these very events were accorded a legal status and enshrined in the constitution. Zia is credited for ending the disorder of the final years of Sheikh Mujib's rule and establishing democracy by abolishing BAKSHAL (One party rule established by Mujib). On the other hand, Zia is assailed by his critics for suppressing opposition. However, Zia's economic reforms are credited with rebuilding the economy and his move towards Islamization brought him the support of ordinary Bangladesh people. His nationalist vision also appealed to many who resented the other political parties alleged inclination towards India and the Soviet Union. Moving away from Mujib's secularism, Zia asserted an Islamic political identity for Bangladesh and of membership in the wider community of Muslim nations. Which was applauded by the general mass.However, these measures also isolated and embittered many ethnic and religious minorities in Bangladesh, laying in the opinion of many historians, the foundations of future communal and ethnic conflicts.. It is generally acknowledged that he lived a simple life, which included opting to have his food supplied from the army canteen.
Ziaur Rahman is survived by his wife Begum Khaleda Zia and his sons Tareq Rahman and Arafat Rahman. Begum Khaleda Zia became the head of the BNP and organized a coalition of political parties opposed to Ershad's regime. In elections held in 1991, Begum Khaleda Zia led the BNP to victory and became prime minister. She lost the 1996 elections to the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but returned to power in 2001. Tareq Rahman serves as BNP senior joint secretary, regarded by many as the architect of the BNP's 2001 election victory. Zia has been the namesake of many public institutions, such as formerly the Zia International Airport in Dhaka, which is the busiest airport in the nation. Turkey has named an important road in Ankara as Ziaur Rahman Caddesi after his death to honor him.
Zia has been honored by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for his statesmanship and vision. Ziaur Rahman was also honored with Egypt's highest state honor Order of the Nile; Great Star, the highest state honor of former Yugoslavia and the Hero Of The Republic from North Korea during his lifetime for his leadership.
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- Sen Gupta, Jyoti (1974). History of Freedom Movement in Bangladesh, 1943-1973: Some Involvement. ASIN B0006CINE2.
- Milam, William B. (2009). Bangladesh and Pakistan Flirting with Failure in South Asia. ISBN 978-1-85065-921-1.
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Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem
|President of Bangladesh