Shajahan Siraj, one of the key organisers of Liberation War in 1971, passed away at a hospital in Dhaka yesterday. He was 77.
The veteran politician, who read the manifesto of the country's independence in presence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and millions of others on March 3, 1971, was suffering from lung cancer.
He breathed his last around 3:30pm while receiving treatment at a city hospital, said Omar Sadat, Siraj's son-in-law.
Siraj was known as one of the "four caliphs" -- Shajahan Siraj, ASM Abdur Rob, Abdul Kuddus Makhon and Nur-e-Alam Siddique -- of Liberation War. He was also the commander of Bangladesh Liberation Force.
In independent Bangladesh, Siraj played the role of minister for environment and forest between 2001 and 2006. He was also a former vice president of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
He left behind his wife Rabeya Siraj, daughter barrister Sarwat Siraj, son Rajiv Siraj and a number of relatives, followers and well-wishers to mourn his death.
Born in Tangail on March 1, 1943, Siraj entered into the political arena through the movement against Hamidur Rahman Education Commission in 1962. He was a student of Sadat College of Karatia in Tangail at that time.
He was elected as the VP of the college twice in 1964-65 and 1966-67. He participated in the 1969 mass upsurge movement and became the general secretary of undivided Chhatra League in 1970-1972.
Siraj was one of the key figures of Swadhin Bangla Biplabi Parishad, a secret organisation that was formed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1962 with an aim to liberate the country from Pakistan.
The then Pakistan government on March 2 placed curfew in Dhaka but students of Chhatra Sangram Patishad, led by vice president ASM Abdur Rob and general secretary Shahjahan Siraj, held a massive rally. They then hoisted a flag of Bangladesh.
Saluting the flag, they all expressed their solidarity with the liberation movement.
After the country got independence, he played a role to form Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and was the acting general secretary and then president.
Siraj was elected lawmaker from Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal thrice from Tangail-4. He joined the BNP in 1995 and got elected from the same constituency that year.
When he was environment minister, some good initiatives were taken including banning of polythene and withdrawal of two-stroke scooters from Dhaka.
During the army backed caretaker government in 2007, Siraj was arrested for corruption charges and he was convicted.
The BNP expresses deep condolences saying the nation has lost a great leader.
His body will be taken to his constituency of Tangail Kalihati.
The first Namaj-e-Janaza will be held at Kalihati college ground. His another Janaja will be held at Gulshan Society mosque. He will be buried at Banani graveyard after Isha prayer.
Meanwhile, President M Abdul Hamid yesterday expressed profound shock and sorrow at the death of the veteran freedom fighter and former minister.
In a condolence message, the President recalled with due respect his outstanding contribution to Bangladesh's politics and the country's Liberation War in 1971.
The head of the state prayed for eternal peace of the departed soul and conveyed profound sympathy to the bereaved family, reported BSS.
Gonoforum President Dr Kamal Hossain and General Secretary Reza Kibria expresses deep condolence and said Siraj had a significant role after Liberation War.
Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Janata League President Bangabir Kader Siddiqui expresses his deep condolence too.