Bangladesh's longest-serving finance minister, credited with turning the South Asian nation into a free market economy, was killed in a traffic accident on Saturday, an aide said. He was 77.

M. Saifur Rahman, who served several times as Finance Minister between 1977 and 2006, was returning to the capital from his hometown in the northeast. The van he was riding in veered off the road and crashed into a ditch in Brahmanbaria, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Dhaka, his aide Shamsul Haq said.

Mr. Rahman was taken to a nearby hospital where the doctors pronounced him dead.

Mr. Rahman served in parliament for several terms with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, now the main opposition party. He lost his seat in elections in 2008. He was the Finance Minister under former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her husband, the late President Zia-ur Rahman. In total he tallied 12 years in the post.

Mr. Rahman is best known for introducing free market reforms to Bangladesh, a process that began in the late 1970s and shifted the economic system from socialist principles.

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