Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Ziaur Rahman

Mass killing of officers, including the officer who rescued him in 1975

Over the subsequent 15 years of military rule [1975 - 1990], coercion and political violence became institutionalised. During the regime of Ziaur Rahman (1975 - 1980), political opponents, particularly those who tried to organise military coups, were dealt with by brute force. Colonel Abu Taher, a war hero and a member of the military wing of the JSD was hanged in a show trial in July 1976. Key leaders of the party were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. After an abortive coup on 1 October 1977, according to government accounts, 92 persons were sentenced to death, 34 persons received life imprisonment and 18 others were given various terms of rigorous imprisonment. Ziaur Rahman confided to a reporter of the New York Times in October 1977 that 460 officers and privates of the army were tried for their involvement in abortive coups and only 63 were acquitted.

In order to gain political legitimacy after 1978 the regime organised elections and allowed political activities, but politicians faced intimidation on an unprecedented scale. The landslide victory of the newly formed BNP was ensured through manipulation and intimidation of opposition activists. The youth and the student wings of the party were allowed to unleash a reign of terror.

Ali Riaz, Author of "Political Islam and governance in Bangladesh" (2011)

Ostracising the minority

What about Zia’s take on national identity? Was Bangladesh nationalism just the two-nation theory / Muslim nationalism in a different garb? Was it meant to turn Bangladeshis who are not Bengali Sunni Muslims into second-class citizens? Or was it an attempt at creating a rights-based citizenship notion of national identity? Again, reasonable people can debate these.

What about how Zia dealt with Mujib’s assassins? Was he merely continuing an arrangement made by Khaled Musharraf, who allowed the killers safe passage out of the country? Was he so worried about the leftist followers of Taher that he felt compelled to make a tactical truce with the rightist majors? Or was he ideologically allied with the majors? Why was he so lenient on them and so merciless against Taher’s supporters, even though the majors too tried to assassinate him through attempted coups?

Jyoti Rahman, Blogger

Khaleda Zia placing wreath at Ziaur Rahman's funeral

7th November: Jatiyo Biplob o Sanghati Dibosh (National Revolution and Solidarity Day)

BNP-led government and BNP supporters around the world celebrate November 7 as "Jatiyo Biplob o Sanghati Dibosh" (National Revolution and Solidarity Day) in commemoration of the 1975 uprising formed by the people and soldiers, and led by Colonel Abu Taher and his political group Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal. This coup helped Major General Ziaur Rahman, founder of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, to grab power in the long run.

However, the BNP's main rival Awami League recognize it neither as a revolutionary nor a solidarity day, and in fact denounce it as "Muktijuddha Hoitta Dibosh" (Freedom Fighters Killing Day).

November 7 was a national holiday in Bangladesh during the rules of autocrat Lieutenant General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, the founder of Jatiyo Dol party, and Zia's wife Khaleda Zia. However, in November 2007, the caretaker government of Fakhruddin Ahmed scrapped this holiday.

Zia Smrti Jadughar

In September 1993, the Old Circuit House in Chittagong, where Ziaur Rahman was assassinated, was renovated into a museum, the "Zia Smrti Jadughar" (Zia Memorial Museum).

Located on the green hills of Chotrogram, this 1913 palatial structure was originally used as a living quarter for government officials until the murder of Ziaur Rahman in 1981.


Visitors to the museum will find a wide variety of memorabilia and art that totals over seven hundred exhibits.

Zia Smrti Jadughar consists of 12 galleries, all of which are dedicated to the memory of President Ziaur Rahman. A total of 743 exhibits that include 336 souvenirs and 13 documents are laid out across the galleries. Items found in these galleries include portraits of the president, the actual transmitter radio transmitter, the microphone, the chair and the table which were used by Ziaur Rahman when reading the Declaration of Independence in 1971, which are displayed in galleries 1 and 2.

His personal effects and belongings are exhibited in galleries 3, 4 and 5. In galleries 4 & 7 are portraits of the shohid Rashtopoti and the souvenirs and gifts that were presented to him by different Heads of states and diplomats. In the last gallery, Gallery 12, visitors will be able to view a reconstruction of his untimely death.

The museum has also been fitted with a breathtaking library and a well-equipped conference room that is equipped with the latest technology for use in presentations and meetings.

As the president was murdered in this building, the museum has become an extraordinary monument to his life. Visitors will find the Zia Memorial Museum to be a spectacular attraction in Chittagong, which not only retraces the life of this unforgettable leader, but the colorful history of Bangladesh.


Swadhinata Purushkar given to Ziaur Rahman and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2003

Swadhinata Purushkar / Swadhinata Dibosh Padak winner along with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

In 2003 the Government of Bangladesh, led by BNP, awarded Ziaur Rahman and Sheikh Mujibur with the Swadhinata Dibosh Padak (Independence Day Award), also known as Swadhinata Purushkar (Independence Award), the highest civilian award in the country.

Tarique receives SAARC Award to late president Ziaur Rahman

Ziaur Rahman the first and only winner of SAARC Award

With the world’s most populous country, SAARC is home to nearly 1.5 billion people or about 22% of world’s population. Therefore, to facilitate unity and cooperation within such a large network of people is undoubtedly one of Ziaur Rahman's greatest initiative. His contribution was officially recognised in 2004 he was awarded posthumously the SAARC Award by the Heads of State or Government of SAARC. The award was formally received by his eldest son Tarique Rahman on behalf of the Zia family at the opening session of the Thirteenth Summit of the SAARC held at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre (later renamed to Bangabandhu International Conference Centre) in Dhaka, on 12 November 2005. It was a great honour bestowed upon the late president to have received the award in Dhaka, the home of SAARC, and that too in a conference centre located opposite his graveyard in Chandrima Uddyan (known popularly as 'Zia Uddyan').

The main objectives of the SAARC Award are:

  • To encourage individuals and organizations based in South Asia to undertake programmes and activities complementing the efforts of SAARC.
  • To encourage individuals and organizations in South Asia contributing to the improvement of the conditions of women and children.
  • To honour outstanding contributions and achievements of individuals and organizations within the region in the fields of peace, development, poverty alleviation, environment protection and regional cooperation making the SAARC Award the most prestigous Award in the region.
  • To honour any other outstanding contributions and achievements, not covered above, of individuals and organizations in the region.

The SAARC Award comprises of a gold medal, a letter of citation and cash prize of US $ 25,000. Since institution of SAARC Award in 2004, it has been awarded only once – to late President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh and nobody else.

Letter of citation for Ziaur Rahman by SAARC:

The cross-fertilization of philosophies, cultures and ideas in the South Asian region has gifted us a shared heritage. Despite these, and the realities of common challenges and a shared future, the region has been slow to take on the mantle of regional cooperation. The imperative to resolutely fight poverty, disease and ignorance and ensure the welfare of the peoples of South Asia clearly underscores the need for enhancing cooperation in the region.

The late President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh took the bold initiative, in the early 1980s, of setting in motion the process of consultation and deliberations for the creation of a forum of cooperation in the region aimed at promoting overall progress and economic development. His vision and unremitting efforts at mobilizing public opinion in the region in favour of institutionalized cooperation culminated in the formation of SAARC in December 1985. SAARC was thus born out of a collective desire to harness the positive impulses in South Asia to reinforce the primacy of the spirit of cooperation in a region that is home to one fifth of humanity.

Recognizing with deep appreciation his contribution to fostering regional cooperation, the Heads of State or Government of SAARC at the Thirteenth Summit, decided to confer the SAARC Award-2004, the first such award, posthumously to the late President Ziaur Rahman. The seed of regional cooperation sown by the late President continues to grow with the intensification of the SAARC process. SAARC will remain a testimony to his vision and foresight.

The seven leaders flew into Dhaka on Saturday, tying up the airspace over Dhaka, which had a domino delay effect on passenger flights connecting to or overflying the city. They comprised Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh of India, Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup of Bhutan, Presidents Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Nepal's King Birendra.

The city of Dhaka, which officially has a population of close to seven million, wore a festive yet deserted look, with the various security services declaring a virtual curfew in the region. The empty roads leading to and from the conference venues and the main streets likely to be traversed by the delegates were bedecked with lights and placards welcoming them and lauding the SAARC spirit.

On Saturday morning, the seven leaders laid wreaths at the National Martyrs Memorial and unveiled a plaque and paid their respects at the mazar of former President Ziaur Rahman. Then they assembled at the state of the art China Bangladesh Friendship Conference Center for the opening session. After inaugurating the summit and before handing over the chair to Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz presented the first SAARC award posthumously to former Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman.

Zia, who was Khaleda Zia's husband, played a key role in the formation of SAARC 20 years ago, and his eldest son Tariq Rahman received the award on his father's behalf amidst much applause from the gathering.


Zia Antorjatik Bimanbondhor (Zia International Airport), Dhaka

Zia Antorjatik Bimanbôndor (Zia International Airport)

Prior to 1971 independence, Bangladesh, then the eastern wing of Pakistan, had only one international airport at Tejgaon area in Dhaka. However, post-independence a new facility was sought to meet demands of modern day international airport. Thus in 1980 the location of the airport was transferred from Tejgaon to Kurmitola (in present day Uttara area), approximately 10 miles to the north.

In 1983, two years after the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman, the airport was renamed from Dhaka Bimanbôndor (Airport) to Zia Antorjatik Bimanbôndor (Zia International Airport).

Renamed to "Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport"

In 2010, the Government of Bangladesh, led by BNP's arch rival Awami League, renamed the Zia Antorjatik Bimanbôndor to "Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport" after the famous sheikh Shah Jalal.

The controversial move came after the Dhaka High Court had cancelled the Fifth Amendment made to the Constitution under Ziaur Rahman's governance. The verdict meant that the governments between 15 August 1975 and 9 April 1979, which includes Ziaur Rahman assuming power, were illegal. As such the cabinet decided that no structures or institutions will bear name of 'illegal autocratic' ruler Ziaur Rahman.

Regarding renaming the airport, the cabinet said that since the people of the country respect Sufis and religious figures and wish to keep their memory alive many important establishments had been named after them.

It referred to the airport in Rajshahi, which was named after Shah Makhdum (R), Shah Amanat (R) airport in Chittagong and Hazrat Khan Jahan Ali (R) for the under construction airport in Khulna.


Largest airport in Bangladesh

The airport is the home base and hub of Bangladesh's national airline, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, and GMG Airlines. It has an area of 1981 acres. Nearly 52% of the country's international and domestic arrivals and departures occur through the airport, while country's second largest international airport at Chittagong handles about 17% of the passengers. About 3.8 million international and 0.8 million domestic passengers and 105,000 tons of freight and mail annually pass through the airport. It has terminal buildings, hangars, technical areas, a freight village (warehouse), and other modern equipment for handling aircraft. It connects almost all the major cities of the world with Bangladesh. From here, Biman Bangladesh goes to 31 cities on 4 continents. Airlines and destinations.

Air India Kolkata, New Delhi
Biman Bangladesh Airlines Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Bangkok, Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Jessore, Karachi, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, London-Heathrow, Muscat, New Delhi, Rajshahi, Riyadh, Rome-Fiumicino, Singapore, Sylhet
British Airways London-Heathrow
Cathay Pacific Dragonair Hong Kong
Druk Air Bangkok, Paro
China Eastern Airlines Beijing, Kunming
Cosmic Air Kathmandu
Emirates Dubai
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi
GMG Airlines Bangkok, Barisal, Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Delhi, Jessore, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Kolkata, Sylhet
Gulf Air Bahrain, Muscat
Kuwait Airways Kuwait
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur
Pakistan International Airlines Karachi
Qatar Airways Doha
Saudi Arabian Airlines Damman, Jeddah, Madinah, Riyadh
Singapore Airlines Singapore
Thai Airways International Bangkok