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Bangladesh begins 3-day state mourning on President’s death

PTI
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Md Zillur Rahman with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee during his ceremonial arrival in Dhaka, Bangladesh recently. Rahman, suffering from kidney and respiratory problems, died in a Singapore hospital.
PTI Md Zillur Rahman with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee during his ceremonial arrival in Dhaka, Bangladesh recently. Rahman, suffering from kidney and respiratory problems, died in a Singapore hospital.

The national flag flew half mast as Bangladesh today began a three-day state mourning following the death of President Zillur Rahman, one of the country’s senior most politicians.

Rahman, 85, died yesterday at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital where he was being treated for kidney and respiratory problems.

Rahman was admitted to the facility on March 10 as he was flown to Singapore by an air ambulance for critical lung infection, a day after he was rushed to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) at Dhaka cantonment.

The Presidential Palace announced that he would be buried tomorrow at a city graveyard beside his wife Ivy Rahman.

On arrival at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Rahman’s body would be brought straight to Presidential Palace for viewing of senior Government leaders and common people.

The mass circulation Prothom Alo newspaper carried a headline ‘the nation lost the guardian’, while the Daily Samakal wrote, ‘Goodbye to The Guardian’ while most newspapers published special editorial notes mourning the death of soft-spoken Rahman.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) withdrew its planned general strike in Dhaka district today as a mark of respect to Rahman. BNP Chief and ex-premier Khaleda Zia joined her archrival Hasina in mourning the death.

“He (Rahman) was a soft-spoken, polite and good man. He never made any derogatory or aggressive remarks about the opposition...with his demise, Bangladesh has lost an experienced and wise political figure (and) the vacuum created by his death would not be filled anytime soon,” Zia said in a statement.

Rahman, a veteran politician, who celebrated his 85th birthday earlier this month, was installed as the ceremonial head of the state in 2009, becoming the 19th President, after Awami League was elected in the landmark December, 2008, general elections.

His death brought a temporary period of lull in political rivalry over 1971 war crimes trial and electoral system.

A lawyer by profession, Rahman was a close aide of Bangladesh’s founder and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and is regarded as a key figure in consolidating the ruling Awami League’s unity at different times after 1975 coup when Sheikh Mujib was killed along with most of his family members.

(This article was published on March 21, 2013)
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