What others have said about Ziaur Rahman (Shaheed General Zia)...
I was shocked and deeply grieved to learn of the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman. The United States - indeed the world - had come to respect President Zia's profound and compassionate commitment to a better life for his people and his dedication to the rule of law. His wisdom in international affairs will be sorely missed.
I am confident that the people of Bangladesh are united in their determination to assure that the stability and progress of recent years will survive this tragedy. Please extend to Begum Zia and her children my sincere condolences on this sad occasion.
Ex-USA president Ronald Reagan’s message to President Abdus Sattar a day after Zia’s murder on 30 May 1981
Zia has gone through an almost Darwinian process of selection through the war with Pakistan and coups in Bangladesh. He has never denigrated politicians as a class – which is itself typical of the present day military rulers of many third-world countries. On the contrary, he has shown adroit political skills in bringing together diverse political groups and accumulating political power though coalition-building.
Prof Talukdar Maniruzzaman, author of "The Bangladesh Revolution and its aftermath"
If there are worse places than Bangladesh these days, much credit goes to Ziaur Rahman. From his rise to power in 1975 until his assassination last weekend, General Zia instilled new motivation in the New England-sized nation of 92 million people to produce more food and fewer children. His murder by army rivals raised fears in Dacca of another period of political instability and bloodshed like the one that occurred after the army overthrew Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's first President, in 1975.
New York Times (1981)
In 1971 I met Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who became the first president of Bangladesh. I went to see him when I was still in Calcutta, he was just taking over. A delightful chap, a delightful rogue, but he was really a chaotic administrator.
Everything went downhill and he got assassinated, sadly. When I went back there in 1978, as High Commissioner, there was General Ziaur Rahman in charge. He had taken over in a coup but he was not a dictator in any way. He gave extremely good government, very easy to talk to. We had our second biggest aid programme in the world there. We were making some progress. The difficult problem was immigration to the UK. We had a large team of immigration officers who tried to decide whether families and children of Bangladeshis who, years back, had emigrated to England should join their menfolk. It is terribly difficult to decide who are not bogus. My officers thought that about 40% percent of the applications were bogus.
Sadly then, after I had left, in the typical Bengali fashion, Ziaur Rahman was assassinated by a jealous general. I won't go into the later history but they are still not terribly stable. Of course, they are among the poorest countries in the world. We tried to help them with aid, but they have had these enormous problems of floods every year due to the cutting down of the trees in the Himalayas and rivers get out of control and this enormous rise in population all the time. It is a very difficult situation.
[On Sheikh Mujib's inability to run country] I wasn’t there at that time. I, personally, can’t give any example of his inability to administer the country but it goes back to his cronyism and they were incompetent. Many politicians put their hands in the till. This went on in an unsatisfactory way till the coup by General Ziaur Rahman. He did bring in a new attitude and did demand not to engage in corruption and set a good example for his ministers and politicians to declare their wealth. For the time I was there for two years, there was a good administration. He was elected through parliament. At that time there was still one of Sheikh Mujib’s friends, a very old politician and a good friend of ours. He was one of the more moderate and more sensible and well educated and he did become the chief minister of East Pakistan at that time and he was still there when we went back in 1978. He was asked by Ziaur Rahman to become his prime minister. He said he was too old for it and didn't want to do it.
Frank Stephen Miles, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata, India (1970-74) and High Commissioner in Dhaka, Bangladesh (1978 – 1979)
When President Ziaur Rahman was killed in 1981, he was only 45. But within this short lifespan he contributed enormously to Bangladesh. Even after so many years of his death, he is still subject to criticism by his adversaries and the Awami league. It is about time that, for the sake of the youth of our country and the future generation, all the politicians and civil society gave due respect and honour to each and everyone who contributed to the liberation war and the birth and development of this country.
Much of our political problems and mudslinging will stop if we as a nation stop fabricating and falsifying history and give everyone their dues. The country will benefit greatly if we accept history the way it happened and move on towards the development of the country.
Shaheed Zia’s ideas, his visions and his philosophies are as relevant today as it was during his time. If we try to read his earlier speeches, they will appear timely and pertinent. His vision defining Bangladeshi nationalism remains the most inclusive and the most successful vision of our nationhood that was ever articulated by a Bangladeshi leader. Even today, after 32 years after his death, changes in Bangladesh constitutional framework initiated by him remain the basis of governance in Bangladesh. After his death, the Time magazine, in its June 8, 1981 issue, published a full-page report. The report comprised of these sentences: "The slain Zia had been one of South Asia’s most promising leaders, a man who lived modestly while others chose corruption, who searched tirelessly for solutions to his country's awesome poverty".
Shama Obaed, Central Committee member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and president of Jatiyatabadi Muktijuddher Projonmo
It's a great pleasure for me this afternoon to welcome to the White House and to our Nation, President Ziaur, the very fine leader of Bangladesh. Since their war of independence in 1971, tremendous progress has been made under his leadership. And with the courage and determination of the people of his great country, with a population of about 90 million, and with tremendous opportunities for economic improvement, President Ziaur has been in the forefront of making the lives of the Bangladesh citizens better each year.
...President Ziaur, we're delighted to have you with us. It's an honor for our country to have you here, and we share with you the basic principles in a completely compatible way as we face the future together. And I'm very honored that you would come here to pay me this visit.
US President Jimmy Carter's glowing remark following meeting President Zia (27 August 1980)