Bangladesh is observing a three-day national mourning following the death of President Zillur Rahman, who enjoyed respect from across the political spectrum. He had an unflinching loyalty to democracy and the core values that inspired the nation to fight a liberation war in 1971.
Rahman was elected President in 2009 after the Awami League-led grand alliance formed government .
A close associate of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nation’s founding father, his role in rebuilding the Awami League after Mujib’s assassination in 1975; and in 2007 when Sheikh Hasina was in jail during the military-led interim government, was laudable.
The passing makes him only the third head of state — the others being Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and General Ziaur Rahman — to have died in office. Born in 1929, he was destined, like many others of his generation, to be drawn to the widening whirlpool of Bangla nationalist politics through the Language Movement of 1952.
He burnished his political credentials through his participation in the struggle against the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan in 1962 and in the movement for the Awami League’s historic Six Point programme in 1966.
As part of the Mujib-led political leadership, that had organised the War of Liberation against Pakistan in 1971, the late President found himself on a new and higher plane the following year when the ruling Awami League, led by Mujib, elected him its general secretary.
It was a position which he would occupy again, years later, under Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh is due to elect its 20th President by June 19, within 90 days of vacancy.Reliable sources told The Hindu that Abdul Hamid, Speaker of Parliament, is likely to be the new President.
Mr. Hamid has been discharging the presidential duties during Zillur’s absence due to deteriorating health. The new President will be in office for five years, irrespective of which party forms the government.