Founder of BNP
Beat one-time senior M. A. G. Osmani to presidential role
The prevailing situation persuaded Ziaur Rahman to take part in active politics so that he could establish democratic order in the country.
In February 1978 he floated Jatiyatabadi Ganatantric Dal, popurly shortened to JAGODAL, with Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar as its head. JAGODAL merged with 6 other political parties to form 'Jatiyatabadi Front' (Nationalist Front). Ziaur Rahman was appointed the Jatiyatabadi Front’s nominee for the presidential election held on 3 June 1978 where he won a comprehensive victory by securing 76.67% of the votes and was elected to a five-year term. He beat nine rival candidates, including General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani, Ziaur Rahman's commanding officer during 1971 Swadhinata Juddho (Independence War)
Though October (1977) coup was unsuccessful, it was bloody and ideologically explosive enough to force Zia to ensure his legitimacy by holding a presidential election in June 1978. There were probably equally important reasons for Zia to hold the elections, such as keeping his electoral commitment to the people and maintaining his image as a trustworthy third world leader before the leadership of western democracies.
Despite the fact that the election was based on universal adult franchise and was considered more or less fair, 9 rival candidates, including General (Rtd.) MAG Osmani (Zia's commanding officer during the Bengali independence struggle) bitterly complained about the time limitations (they were allowed to start campaigning only 20 days before the election) and Zia's unlimited use of governmental machinery for campaigning.
Zia was forced to recognise the need for a civilian, political base of support to ward off the dangerous threat of the growing factionalism within the military. In 1978 presidential elections were called, and Zia, forming his own political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was elected to a five-year term, giving his presidency the political "legitimacy" that he had fought.
Selected chairman of BNP and win parliamentary election
On 1 September 1978, three months after the presidential election, a new political party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP, Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Dol), was launched with the slogan "politics of production and development" and with Zia as its chairman. Having already secured the direct vote of the people, President Zia now set about getting the support of the assembly. So an election for an assembly was called and held on 10 February 1979. BNP won 207 seats out of 300. On 5 April 1979, the first session of the Jatiya Sangsad was convened and a bill named Act 1 of 1979 was passed which legalised all measures taken by the government from 15 August 1975, including the controversial indemnity of Sheikh Mujib killers by Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed. Few days later, on 9 April 1979, martial law was lifted after the enactment of the Fifth Amendment.
Securing 76% of the total votes cast in the election, Zia was elected president for 5 years, proving his legitimate authority to rule. Subsequently, through the formation of his political party (BNP) and using the 19-point program as its ideological platform, Zia increased his control over the political process and, at the same time, seemed to relinquish some control by establishing a parliament.
By the time Ziaur Rahman was assassinated there was in fact only one single person in charge of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary in Bangladesh.
Till the month of April 1979, the country was under Martial Law. Thus whatever he needed during this period was done under his order. These were termed Martial Law orders.
Hamidul Huq Chowdhury
Killed in Chotrogram – where he once gave the Declaration of Independence
In the early hours of Saturday 30 May 1981 Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in an abortive army coup whilst staying in the Chittagong Circuit House. President Zia – only 45 years old – died in a hail of bullets along with his six bodyguards and two aides.
Major General Abul Manzoor, the regional commander of the Chittagong Cantonment and Zia's comrade from the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, was alleged to have been behind the killing. However, he too was murdered three days later in mysterious circumstances, fuelling further speculation as to who was the real architect behind Zia’s murder.
- Abul Manzoor ()
Government troops discovered Ziaur Rahman's body in a shallow grave in Rangunia upozila, 22 miles (37 km) from the Chittagong Circuit House where he had been assassinated.
His body was returned to Dhaka, and two days after his assassination, his simple wooden coffin was buried at Chandrima Uddan next to the Jatiyo Sangshad (National Parliament) in the locality of Sher-e-Banglanagar in Dhaka. Over a million people had attended his state funeral and paid their final respects.
The martyred Zia was not only our national hero but also a man of superior character who served our country as a soldier and as a statesman until the last moment of his life, with no illusion of his own.
Mohammad D. Hussain ,
After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman, 75-year-old Justice Abdus Sattar immediately succeeded him as the acting president. He was joined by Zia’s widow Khaleda Zia, who entered the political and public arena for the first time. Up until that moment Khaleda Zia had lived a private life as a housewife, looking after their two sons Tarique and Arafat Rahman, and kept a very low public profile. However, after the brutal murder of her husband Ziaur Rahman she entered politics to lead the BNP and later became the first woman Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 1991.
He was like my son. I loved him too much. I loved him because he was trying to build this small country in a better way.
Justice Abdus Sattar's emotional tribute, stopping after almost every word, and sometimes wiping away tears
Abdus Sattar, the acting President, today reiterated his caretaker Government's determination to hold a presidential election on schedule and ''to foil any conspiracy to disturb the democratic process in the country.'
Despite the lively participation of 26 candidates, the Bangladesh presidential election campaign that ended here today has been dominated almost entirely by the auras of two dead adversaries. The two - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led the country to independence and was killed in 1975, and General Ziaur Rahman, who governed for five years until he was murdered by army officers last May 30 - were the centerpieces at huge rallies that the two major parties staged here in the capital. On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets in support of Dr. Kamal Hossain, the challenger from Sheik Mujib's Awami League. On Thursday, an even larger crowd jammed the same plazas and thoroughfares in jubilant advocacy of the candidacy of Acting President Abdus Sattar, the 76-year-old judge who was Vice President when General Zia was murdered.
New York Times (1981)
But after the election Sattar, who had the reputation of being everybody's man and had served Yahya, Mujib and Zia with equal deftness, found himself in the midst of a tussle with the armed forces under the leadership of General Ershad for power-sharing.
Sattar was too weak a person to withstand pressure from the leaders of the armed forces. He broke down. He surrendered quietly and General Ershad executed a coup and seized power and declared Martial Law in March 1982. Thus another Martial Law regime began.
Hamidul Huq Chowdhury
Since the death of Ziaur Rahman on 30 May 1981 till now – over 30 years – nobody has been officially held responsible for his killing. This was the case even when his wife Khaleda Zia came into power on several occasions.