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.