|President of the People's Republic of Bangladesh|
President : Professor Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed
H.E BEGUM KHALEDA ZIA
Governemnt of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Khaleda Zia’s entry into politics, in early eighties, sudden as it was,
made a tremendous impact on the national politics of Bangladesh in no time.
Obviously, her entry into politics took place after the assassination of
President Ziaur Rahman, her husband, on May 30, 1981.
came to politics not because she wanted it but due to popular demand as well
as repeated persuasions from the workers and leaders of
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), to lead the party at a time the
country had just fallen into the hands of an autocratic ruler. Her entry
into politics to lead the party, founded by Ziaur Rahman, automatically put
her in the role to lead a nationwide mass movement for restoration of
democracy in Bangladesh. Nine years of mass movement participated by many
political parties ended in December 1990 with the downfall of the autocratic
regime of General H.M.Ershad and restoration of democracy in Bangladesh.
Zia was the graceful First Lady, though she never used this title, when Zia
was the president of the Republic. By her own admission she never aspired to
be in politics. But once in it, people saw a different Begum Zia, determined
and uncompromising to pursue the cause of democracy and the masses for which
millions rallied round her. To the masses of Bangladesh she is just Khaleda,
her first name. Out of love and affection they gave her the title, ‘Desh
Netri’(Leader of the Country), though she never uses it. Very much a
product of the democratic movement, she emerged out of it a charismatic
she handed over power to a caretaker regime in 1996, an opposition bid to
create anarchy and harass her party leaders and workers were foiled by
millions of people who rallied round her when she called a public meeting on
shortest possible notice. From 1996 to 2001 Begum Zia was the Leader of the
opposition. She of course, led the biggest parliamentary opposition, so far,
in Bangladesh history, winning 116 of a 300-seat parliament.
in opposition or in power Begum Zia, as a public leader, enjoys immense
personal popularity among the people. She was elected from as many as five
parliamentary seats in each of the three general elections since 1991.
programme to bring economic prosperity to ensure two square meals to the
common people, known as ‘dal bhat’, she took in her first term in office
earned wide acceptance not only throughout Bangladesh but also in the South
Asian region and beyond in many other third world countries.
many of her contemporaries she is known for her enviable tolerance. Keen to
listen more than speak, a trait that distinguishes her from the others.
demonstrated her uncompromising nature by refusing to go to fake polls under
the autocratic regime in 1986 for which it (the autocratic regime) never got
the seal of legitimacy.
her first tenure in office she took a bold initiative to empower women in
every nook and corner of the country. She made education up to secondary
level free for the girls and introduced incentives for their education.
her first tenure as the Prime Minister she brought about a major education
sector reform making primary education compulsory, free education for girls
students, introduced the incentive of stipends for girls students as well as
food for education programme. She initiated bold reforms to revitalise the
national economy by accelerating production and growth in all economic
sectors for poverty alleviation.
being the mainstay of national economy, received the main thrust for
achieving food autarky in shortest possible time. With active support from
the government people took to raising livestock for dairy and meat.
led, as the Leader of the opposition, the biggest ever public demonstration,
in Bangladesh history, in 1999 to protest oppressive policies of the
government of the day. The peaceful demonstration came under repeated
attacks from the government. It was not easy. She had to face, during the
democratic movement, many odds, repeated imprisonment and harassment by an
autocratic regime to which the people were nothing but enemies as were its
leaders fighting for democracy.
the first free and fair general elections in many years, after the fall of
the autocratic regime, held in 1991, under a non-partisan interim government
and monitored by observers from across the world, her party BNP spearheading
a 7-party alliance, was voted to power and she was elected Bangladesh’s
first woman Prime Minister. Her election as Prime Minister also saw an
amendment to the Constitution of the Republic so that Bangladesh could
restore parliamentary system of government after a lapse of 16 years.
husband, President Zia, had earlier, initiated the process of economic
liberalization and restored multi-party democracy, discarding one-party
system as well as command model of socialist economy introduced by Sheikh
was during her first tenure in office, from 1991 to 1996, that Bangladesh
took to total economic liberalization and free market economy. Other big
parties of Bangladesh just followed her party in this regard. Begum Zia was
elected Prime Minister for the second time after the mid-February elections
was elected Prime Minister, for the third time in October 2001, in a free
and fair election conducted by a neutral and non-partisan caretaker
government and monitored by observers from all over the world. She led a
four-party alliance to win a landslide two-thirds majority in the
Rahman founded BNP and introduced politics of moderation, accommodation,
tolerance and liberalism to build national consensus on various issues to
which BNP led by her remains committed. The party also remains committed to
building a society of communal harmony. Her government worked hard, as did
Zia, in projecting Bangladesh’s traditional society of moderation,
tolerance and communal harmony.
active support from the government people took to raising livestock for
dairy and meat production. The upshot was that Bangladesh could, in no time,
save over Taka 3000 million on import of powdered milk. It was just an
example of the positive productive and growth oriented programme adopted by
government pursued a dynamic and positive foreign policy promoting good
neighbourly relations, bolstering regional cooperation in South Asia, strict
adherence to the UN Charter and furthering world peace and amity, peaceful
and negotiated settlement of all international disputes, renunciation of use
of force in international relations. It was during her tenure that
Bangladesh’s involvement began to increase rapidly in international
peacekeeping efforts under the UN blue helmets.
share of domestic resources in economic development efforts also grew during
her first term in office in sharp contrast to the picture during the
previous autocratic regime which even had to borrow from abroad to pay
salary of government employees.
enjoyed a positive image in the international community at the time for
which very big investment teams, as never before or afterwards, were sent by
Japan, Great Britain, to name a few. But it was largely due to negative
politics on the streets that they did not or could not yield expected
results. Even then industrial investment including from abroad grew
substantially during her first term in office. Construction of the Jamuna
Bridge, across the mighty river, the biggest construction project so far,
could begin during her tenure as foreign aid held up before came during her
among her parent’s five children she was born on August 15, 1945. She had
her education at Dinajpur Government Girls High School and Surendranath
College. She was married to Ziaur Rahman, then a Captain in Pakistan Army in
August 1960. Zia made history 11 years later, as a major, proclaiming
independence of Bangladesh after Pakistan Army cracked down on unarmed
population of the country on the fateful night of March 25, 1971.
Mother of two sons and grandmother of a couple of grand children her hobbies include reading, listening to music and gardening.