Hussain Muhammad Ershad becomes President

The mysterious killing of Ziaur Rahman plunged country into a serious political vacuum and ultimately paved the way to put the country under the rule of a military regime for nine long years.

Following Ziaur Rahman's assassination, Vice President of Bangladesh Justice Abdus Sattar became Acting President and also the Chairman of the BNP. He was elected in a popular vote in December 1981 but was deposed in 24 March 1982 by a bloodless coup by Army Chief of Staff General Hossain Mohammad Ershad. Ershad declared martial law and, like Ziaur Rahman, formed a new political party called 'Jatiya Dol' (National Party) to civilianise his regime.

Wife Khaleda Zia enters politics

In March 1983 Justice Sattar appointed Zia's widow Begum Khaleda Zia vice-chairman of BNP and on February 1984, she became the chairperson as Justice Sattar retired from politics. Few months later, on 10 August 1984 the party elected elected her the chairperson.

Khaleda Zia spent the next few years campaigning against the autocratic rule of President Ershad, and finally combined with Sheikh Hasina, daughter of late President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and later her arch enemy in politics, to topple Ershad in 1990. The following year, a decade after her husband's murder, Begum Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh - the first female in Bangladesh's turbulent history. She has been leading the BNP till today.

Mystery surrounding death of Bangladesh's first military ruler

Until today nobody has been formally held responsible for Ziaur Rahman's killing, even though a president was assassinated. This was the case when Ziaur Rahman's wife ruled the country for good ten years. The only trial that has taken place after President Zia's killing is for mutiny.

What implications has Zia's murder made in the country's politics? The politics of killing is the result of conspiracy and intrigue. This culture of murder and vindictiveness in politics has been nurtured since 1975. Democracy was put at stake because these murders were never completely brought to book, this breeds a culture of impunity and injustice. We are still bearing the brunt of the murders of two Presidents. We could not build a healthy democratic culture because of this, violence begets violence, and this kind of murder always encourages the opportunist elements that try to change the course of history through unfair means, which in effect gives room to the conspirators.

Julfikar Ali Manik, author of "Zia Hotyakando: Neel Nokshar Bichar" (2007)

Zia Smriti Jadughar (Zia Memorial Museum)

  • Founded: 1993
  • Address: Chittagong, Bangladesh
  • Opening hours: 10.30 - 16.30 Saturday - Wednesday
    15.00 - 20.00 Friday
    Closed on Thursday
  • Entrance fee: Tk. 2
  • Website:

In 1993 the Government of Bangladesh - led by BNP - converted the Chittagong Circuit House where President Zia was assassinated on 30 May 1981 to a museum called "Zia Smriti Jadughar" (Zia Memorial Museum). The commemorative museum contains 12 galleries, all of which are dedicated to the memory of the Late President and houses mementos and personal belongings There are more than 700 artifacts found within the Smriti Jadughar Objects found in these exhibitions are portraits of Ziaur Rahman, the actual microphone transmitter used by young Ziaur Rahman to announce Independence of Bangladesh in March 1971, a table and chair and other personal properties, documents and gifts received during his tenure from national and international diplomats and officials. Zia Smriti Jadughar also houses an excellent library and a conference hall equipped with latest technology for use in presentations and meetings.

For a taste of recent Bangladesh history, visitors should drop by this museum which houses the radio transmitter that Zia used to declare the independence of Bangladesh. There are also photographs and background information on the man who was eventually assassinated by his own military men just a few years after he took power.

Mikey Leung & Belinda Meggitt, authors of "Bangladesh" (2009)

As the president was killed in this building, the museum monument his extraordinary life.

Visitors will find that Zia Memorial Museum is a stunning attraction in Chittagong which describes not only the life of this unforgettable leader, but also the colourful history of Bangladesh.