Biography Of Mohammad Zillur Rahman
Former President Of Bangladesh
March 9, 1929 – March 20, 2013
Mohammad Zillur Rahman was a politician and former President of Bangladesh who though just served the state for only 4 years, but played key roles as a political person. He was in office from 12 February 2009 to 20 March 2013. The veteran politician Hamid was the 19th president of independent Bangladesh and he was elected as the president ‘uncontested’. Till now, he is only the 3rd president of Bangladesh who has died while still in office.
Zillur Rahman was a senior presidium member of the Awami League. He was also a close associate of the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman. He is known to remain a true supporter of Awami League leaders throughout his life since he got involved in politics during his student life. He was born on March 9, 1929, in Bhairabpur, Bhairab thana of the Kishoreganj district. He was the son of a lawyer and he himself became one. He was an active member during the language movement in 1952 and one of the leading organizers of the liberation war in 1971.
Before becoming the state guardian, he had to face many chaos in his life like staying behind the bars, tortured by the then Pakistani government etc. He had a huge impact in his political career after Bangladesh got its independence. He, along with his wife, Ivy Rahman, served the nation together and stayed loyal to their party Awami League. During his tenure, he was respected by all for his soft-spoken and calm nature and especially for his strong commitment to the party. He died of natural causes, suffering from respiratory problems on 20 March 2013. He was 84 years old at that time. His contributions to the nation are unforgettable.
Life of “Mohammad Zillur Rahman” at a glance
Real Name: Mohammad Zillur Rahman
Date of Birth: March 9, 1929
Date of Death: March 20, 2013
Father Name: Late Meher Ali Miyan
➭ President of Bangladesh, from 12 February 2009 to 20 March 2013
➭ Vice-President of Student Union of Fazlul Huq Hall of Dhaka University
➭ Vice-chairman of united front election steering committee in the 1954’s election
➭ President of the Kishoreganj subdivision unit of Awami League in 1956
➭ General Secretary of Dhaka District Bar Association in 1960s
➭ Member of parliament in the 1970 national elections of Pakistan
➭ Contributor to the Daily Joy Bangla, during the liberation war, 1971
➭ General Secretary of Awami League in 1972
➭ Member of the parliament in the 1973 general elections.
➭ General Secretary of the Awami League in 1974 and 1997
➭ Secretary to Central Committee of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League in 1975
➭ Presidium Member of Awami League in 1981
➭ General secretary of Awami League in 1992
➭ Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives and the deputy leader of parliament in the Awami League government between 1996 and 2001
➭ LGRD minister in the Awami League government in 1996
➭ Temporary President of Bangladesh Awami League during 2006 to 2008
➭ Member of Bangladesh Constituent Assembly
➭ Member of the Politbureau and the central committee of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) in 1975.
Place of Birth: Bhairabpur, Bhairab thana, Kishoreganj district, at his mother’s paternal house.
Place of Death: Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore
Buried in: Banani graveyard, Dhaka
➭ Bhairab Model Govt. Primary school
➭ Matriculation from Bhairab K. B. High School in 1946
➭ Intermediate of Arts (IA) from Dhaka College in 1947
➭ BA (Hons) degree in History in 1952, MA in History in 1954, and later LLB degree – everything from Dhaka University
Native Language: Bangla
Married to: Ivy Rahman, 1958–2004
Children: One son and two daughters:
➭ Nazmul Hassan Papon
➭ Tania Bakht
➭ Tanima Bakht
Awards: Mirpur-Airport Road Flyover was named after his name in 2013
On March 9, 1929, Mohammad Zillur Rahman was born in a reputable and renowned Muslim family in a small village in Bhairabpur, which is under Bhairab thana of the Kishoreganj district, at his mother’s paternal house. His father, Late Meher Ali Miyan, was a well-known lawyer, as well as chairman of the then Mymensingh Local Board and member of the District Board. Because of his family background, he developed his interest to be involved with politics. Even while studying at the Dhaka College, in 1946, he got engaged in public work on referendums in Sylhet during the British regime. That is when he caught the eyes of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman and Zillur’s political life began.
Zillur Rahman had started his primary school from Bhairab Model Govt. Primary school, located near to his birth place. After that, in 1946, he passed his matriculation exam from Bhairab K. B. High School. Then in 1947, he completed Intermediate of Arts (IA) from Dhaka College. He graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in History in 1952, did MA in History in 1954, and also later achieved an LLB degree from Dhaka University.
Zillur Rahman started off his career by volunteering in Awami League. In 1947, during a campaign in Sylhet, he first caught the attention of Bangabandhu and thus eventually became a close associate of Sheikh Mujibor Rahman. He played key roles in the language movement in 1952 and in the liberation war in 1971.
He worked as the vice president of the Student Union of Fazlul Huq Hall of Dhaka University in 1953. However, seeing his active participation in the language movement, the university authority expelled him, though they were forced to withdraw this decision in the face of student agitation. This shows how much he was loved by the other students.
Zillur Rahman was appointed as the vice chairman of the election steering committee for the larger Mymensingh district during the United Front election in 1954. Additionally, he served as the leader of the former East Pakistan Awami Svechha-sebak League. In 1956, he was chosen to lead the Awami League subdivision in Kishoreganj. He participated in every major uprising, including the 1962 movement against Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship, the 1966 six-point movement, and the 1969 mass uprising. Because he completed an LLB degree and therefore a lawyer, he served as the general secretary of the Dhaka District Bar Association throughout the 1960s. In 1970, he was chosen to serve in the Pakistan National Assembly.
After the liberation war, Zillur Rahman was elected to be the general secretary of independent Bangladesh’s Awami League party in 1972. Because he was a member of Bangladesh Constituent Assembly, he took part in framing the Constitution of Bangladesh. In 1973, he was chosen to serve on the Jatiya Sangsad i.e., at the parliament. In 1974, he was chosen to serve as Bangladesh Awami League’s general secretary. In 1975, he joined the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) Politbureau and Central Committee. He was one of BAKSAL’s four secretaries. He spent four years in prison following the violent death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Raman and his family in 1975. Since 1981, Zillur Rahman has been a crucial member of the Bangladesh Awami League’s presidium. He served in the Jatiya Sangsad in 1986. However, in the same year, he was again imprisoned. In 1992, he was elected to serve as Awami League’s general secretary. In 1996, Zillur Rahman was chosen as a representative of Jatiya Sangsad. He served in the government from 1996 to 2001 and was in charge of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives. He carried out his duties as the deputy leader in the Jatiya Sangsad concurrently. He was re-elected general secretary of the Bangladesh Awami League in 1997. He was elected a member of the Jatiya Sangsad in 2001. All of these works done by him shows how much of an experienced political leader he was. His worth was incomparable with other leaders.
On 11 January 2007, our nation was thrown into a two-year state emergency. All political activities were banned under the decree of emergency and various political leaders including Sheikh Hasina were arrested on the accusation of corruption. During such a crisis, Zillur Rahman Zillur Rahman led the Awami League party very efficiently. At the time of Hasina’s absence, who was then the president of the party, Zillur became the acting president of the party. With his political discernment and wisdom, he made significant contributions to maintain the party’s unity and restored democracy to the nation. He was therefore made a member of the Jatiya Sangsad in 2008. As the deputy leader of the Jatiya Sangsad, he played significant roles.
Finally, on 12 February 2009, Zillur was sworn in as the 19th President of Bangladesh. He had fulfilled all the responsibilities of the office as a president while he was still alive.
We can see Zillur Rahman’s entire career was molded in politics. As a professional politician, he was well-suited to participate in a process that continually emphasized the importance of the democratic system in the nation. Since entering national politics, he had been a parliamentarian who barely ever left the chamber.
Awards and contributions
His biggest contribution for the country is that he played a key role in the language movement and to initiate the liberation war.
On July 03, 2011, Zillur Rahman Zillur approved the 15th constitutional amendment law about abolishing the caretaker government system. In this system, there was a temporary government who used to rule for a certain period of time during the transition from one elected government to another, after the former government had completed the tenure. With this approval of the change in the law, it became part of the constitution.
3 months past his presidency, in May 2009, Zillur Rahman had called for caution over the global recession and emphasized the importance of globalization at a meeting with the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Participations in different Movements and the Liberation War
During the language movement in 1952, Zillur Rahman played a vital role. On 19 February 1952, he led a student gathering which was held at Amtala in Dhaka University. He was among the eleven student leaders who met at the pond-side area located between Fazlul Huq Hall and Dhaka Hall on 20 February 1952 and decided to break the prohibitory order under Section 144. This was such a bravery act for the people at that age and situation. He was still a student of BA at Dhaka University during that time. He participated in 1962 in the movement against military rule, in 1966 in Six- points movement, and in 1969 in the mass-upsurge movement. He remained in close contact with Bangabandhu during all these times.
Zillur Rahman was also one of the organizers of the liberation war in 1971 because he played pivotal roles in reuniting Awami League and therefore it led to the formation of the liberation war. He was involved with the Radio Centre of Independent Bangladesh, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and with the publication of the newspaper, Jay Bangla (this was the mouthpiece of the then Mujibnagar Government or the Government-in-exile). Zillur Rahman was an active participant of Mujibnagar. In his absence, the then Pakistan Government gave him 20 years of prison term, and also seized all of his properties.
During his tenure, Bangladesh became the 5th largest scout country in the world. This was a matter of pride and happiness for him as he was the Chief Scout of Bangladesh at that time. He was also the Supreme Commander of the Bangladesh Armed Forces. Therefore he had urged for the modernizing of the Armed Forces.
In February 2012, following the presentation of credentials by the Cuban ambassador to Bangladesh, Zillur Rahman called for the expansion of trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba. In the same year, he had requested the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) nations to put pressure on Myanmar to accept the Rohingya refugees.
After Zillur’s death, in 2013, PM Sheikh Hasina named the Mirpur-Airport Road Flyover after his name.
Zillur Rahman was known as a soft-spoken, polite and calm person. Even with this nature, he showed a firm commitment in his service. He was a role model having political decency. He was one of the experienced and wise political figures of Bangladesh. He was claimed to have never made any derogatory or aggressive remarks about the opposition political parties or leaders. He was respected as a political figure. He was a loyal and true supporter of PM Sheikh Hasina, even after the death of her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman.
In marital life, in 1958, Zillur Rahman married Jebun Nahar Ivy, commonly known as Ivy Rahman, another Awami League politician like him, who was also the party’s secretary for women’s affairs. Mrs. Ivy Rahman died on 24 August 2004 at CMH. 3 days before her death, she was attending a rally organized by Awami League. At that time, with the intention to kill the PM Sheikh Hasina, some terrorists launched a coordinated grenade attack on the Awami league leaders. There, Ivy Rahman got badly injured and lost both of her legs. Zillur Rahman later remained unmarried till his own death. Zillur Rahman’s love for her was spotted when he was seen to weep for Ivy, during the burial ceremony at Banani Graveyard, Dhaka. It is heard that they first met during the late 1950s in a campaign to advance the Bengali language. Additionally, it is said that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman played the ‘matchmaker’ between them. The high-profile political couple together had 3 children in total; only one son, Nazmul Hassan Papon, who is currently the president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) as well as an MP for the Kishoreganj-6 constituency., and two daughters; Tania Bakht and Tanima Bakht.
Even though Zillur did not have that many controversies, however, when he exercised his clemency power on A H M Biplob, it received some public controversies. A H M Biplob was accused of murdering a lawyer. He was given the death sentence in absentia. His father was one of Awami League leaders and Mayor of Laxmipur municipality, Abu Taher. In July 2011, after his mother filed an application, Zillur Rahman pardoned him from the case.
Even though some people claimed that Mujib’s government had descended into dictatorship and corruption, Zillur Rahman was not contaminated by these accusations. Mass people warmly accepted him and respected him.
On 9 March, 2013, on his 84th birthday, Zillur Rahman first got admitted in Combined Military Hospital (CMH), situated at Dhaka cantonment. He was suffering from a critical lung infection. As his health started deteriorating, he was shifted by an air ambulance to Singapore’s acclaimed hospital, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, on 10 March. Since 11 March, he had been undergoing treatments for kidney and respiratory problems. Finally, he lost the battle with his life on 20 March, at 6:47 pm local time (as reported by Bangladesh’s High Commissioner, Singapore Mahbub Uz Zaman). He died at the age of 84 years old. During his death, all of his 3 children were present. He was buried beside his wife’s grave.
At the news of his death, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was said to express heartfelt shock and sadness. According to her, it was “an irreparable loss to the country and its people”. Mohammad Abdul Hamid, who was appointed as the acting president in such a crisis, announced three days of national mourning for the death of Zillur Rahman.
Zillur Rahman’s dead body was brought back to Bangladesh on 21 March and was kept inside Bangababhan, the presidential place, for everyone to pay respect. He was then buried the next day in Banani Graveyard, Dhaka Friday at 3:55 pm Bangladesh time. Lots of political leaders and other close and loved ones of his attended the Janazah. His coffin was wrapped with red and white flowers and in the national flag because not only he was the state president but also a freedom fighter. A two-minute silence was observed as well as the army team gave a 21-gun salute to the body and a military salute. After this ceremony, the army fired bullets in the air as a form of respect to the late President.
The veteran politician’s biggest legacy was to make Bangladesh an independent nation by taking part in different movements and the war. He remained supportive to the Awami League party during its crisis and also when it was the running government. Hence he played vital roles in keeping the party united.
Even after 10 years of his death, till this date, Zillur Rahman is still remembered and respected by the countrymen because of his dedication towards his political party and most importantly for organizing the liberation war. He was always a close associate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman and therefore remained loyal to Bangabandhu’s daughter. He was a well reputed political figure in the Indian subcontinent. His (bitter) experiences are unmatched with many other veteran political leaders. From him, young generations of Bangladesh can learn how to be loyal and always supportive to the closed ones. No matter how much difficulty Zillur Rahman had to face, he never became weak or broke down; he remained firm to his commitment. This is also a big lesson for the youths. Zillur Rahman will always be remembered as a true leader for the country and especially for Awami League.