Zillur sworn in as president
Veteran Awami League (AL) leader Zillur Rahman was sworn in as the country's 19th president in a simple ceremony at Bangabhaban yesterday.
Chief Justice MM Ruhul Amin administered the oath of office and secrecy to Zillur at the Darbar Hall of the presidential palace in the evening. Zillur is the fifth president elected by the Jatiya Sangsad since the parliamentary system was restored in 1991.
The Election Commission (EC) Wednesday declared Zillur, an AL presidential nominee, elected president unopposed. Zillur was the deputy leader of the House.
Among those who witnessed the investiture were Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Abdul Hamid, Deputy Speaker Shawkat Ali, chief advisers to caretaker governments Fakhruddin Ahmed and Justice Latifur Rahman, Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, ministers, members of parliament, judges of the Supreme Court, and senior civil service and military officials.
After the oath-taking ceremony, Hasina said she was very happy to see a life-long politician become the president. "A new journey of democracy has begun in the country with Zillur Rahman as president," she told reporters.
BNP leaders MK Anwar and Barkatullah Bulu, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, Workers' Party President Rashed Khan Menon, members of the diplomatic corps, senior journalists and Hasina's sister Sheikh Rehana were also present.
As Zillur, flanked by senior military officers entered Bangabhaban, at 7:00pm on the dot, outgoing president Iajuddin Ahmed welcomed him. The national anthem was played after he sat to Iajuddin's right.
Known as a close companion of independence architect and Hasina's father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the 79-year-old president shook hands with his predecessor and the chief justice immediately after taking oath. Zillur and Iajuddin swapped chairs amid a standing ovation.
After the swearing in, BNP Chief Whip Jainul Abdin Faruk said, "We congratulated Zillur Rahman earlier on his election as president and we congratulate him again today. He is an experienced politician. If he puts his experience to use, he will do a good job of upholding democracy."
Faruk said BNP will extend its cooperation to the new president if he performs his duty neutrally.
On January 3, AL Parliamentary Party unanimously nominated Zillur for the country's top post.
Son of late Meher Ali Mian, Zillur was born in a respectable Muslim family at Bhairab in Kishoreganj on March 09, 1929.
He started his academic life in Mymensingh town and passed his Matriculation examination from Bhairab KB High School in 1945. He obtained Intermediate of Arts (IA) certificate from Dhaka Intermediate College. In 1954, he got his MA with honours in History and LLB degree from Dhaka University.
He played an active role in the 1952 Language Movement. He presided over a student gathering held in the historic Amtala on Dhaka University campus on February 19, 1952, demanding Bangla be made the state language. Zillur was one of the prominent leaders of the 11 student-leaders who met beside the pond between Fazlul Huq Hall and Dhaka Hall on February 20, 1952, and decided to violate Section-144.
In 1953, he was elected vice-president of Student Union of Fazlul Huq Hall of Dhaka University without contest. The university authorities had expelled him and snatched his masters' degree for his active participation in the Language Movement.
However, facing intense students' agitation the university was forced to return his degree. At the time of Jukto Front Election in 1954, he was made the vice-chairman of Election Steering Committee of the greater Mymensingh district. He was elected general secretary of Dhaka District Bar Association in the 60s.
Zillur Rahman became close to Bangabandhu in 1946 when he was in Dhaka Intermediate College. He was engaged in campaign for a referendum in Sylhet during the British era. He took part in all mass-movements including the movement against military rule in 1962, the Six-point Movement in 1966 and Mass Upsurge in 1969. In 1970, he was elected member of the National Assembly of Pakistan.
He was one of the veteran organisers of the country's Liberation War in 1971. He was associated with the operations of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (the radio station of independent Bangladesh) and publication of the newspaper Joy Bangla, the mouthpiece of the then Mujibnagar government.
In 1972, just after victory in the Liberation War, he became a member of Bangladesh Constituent Assembly and actively took part in forming the Constitution of Bangladesh.
He was elected lawmaker in 1973, 1986 and 2001. In 1996, after his election as lawmaker, he was made minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives. He was also deputy leader in parliament then.
Hasina had made Zillur the acting party chief after she was arrested in 2007.
His beloved wife Ivey Rahman, a veteran leader of AL, succumbed to her injuries two days after the August 21, 2004, grenade attack on an AL rally on Bangabandhu Avenue. Zillur is blessed with two daughters and a son.