Hussain Muhammad Ershad

Hussain Muhammad Ershad
Hussain Muhammad Ershad
হুসেইন মুহাম্মদ এরশাদ
President of Bangladesh
In office
11 December 1983 – 6 December 1990
Prime Minister Ataur Rahman Khan
Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury
Moudud Ahmed
Kazi Zafar Ahmed
Preceded by Ahsanuddin Chowdhury
Succeeded by Shahabuddin Ahmed (Acting)
Personal details
Born 1 February 1930 (1930-02-01) (age 81)
Rangpur, Bangladesh
Political party Jatiya Party
Alma mater University of Dhaka
Command and Staff College
Profession Lieutenant General
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance Pakistan
Bangladesh
Service/branch Infantry
Rank Chief of Army Staff
Lieutenant General

Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad (Bengali: হুসেইন মুহাম্মদ এরশাদ Hussein Muhammad Ershad) born (February 1, 1930) is a Bangladeshi politician who was President of Bangladesh from 1983 to 1990. Previously, he was Chief of Staff of the Bangladesh Army and then Chief Martial Law Administrator in 1982.

He is a United Nations Laureate[1][2] and won the parliamentary elections three times after being toppled from the presidency. Although commonly termed as an autocratic military dictator[3] his popularity remained; even when in prison awaiting trial[citation needed], Ershad won the Parliamentary Elections from five different constituencies twice - in the elections of 1991 & 1996[citation needed]. In 2009 he formed a "Grand Alliance" against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's (BNP) Four-Party Alliance and became the first Bangladeshi politician to apologize publicly for all wrong doings of the past and asked for forgiveness. The Grand Alliance (Mohajote) won the elections in December 2008 and HM Ershad became a Member of Parliament once again[citation needed]. It is a widely known fact that he orchestrated the killings of former President Zia as well as Major General Abul Manzur.

Despite of all the ethical dilemma and corruption surrounding him, Hussain Muhammad Ershad did manage to leave behind a legacy of developments in infrastructure, socio-economic growth and brought stability to Bangladesh's Armed Forces[citation needed]. The former Chief of Army Staff & President, Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad is currently a Member of Parliament & Chairman of Jatiya Party - the second largest party in Bangladesh's Coalition Government known as Grand Alliance (Mohajote) as of January 2009.

Contents

Early life and military career

Hussain Muhammad Ershad was born in Rangpur in 1930. His parents migrated from Dinhata subdivision of Coochbehar district of West Bengal, India. He graduated from the University of Dhaka in 1950 and was commissioned into the Pakistan Army in 1952[citation needed]. Between he was an adjutant in the East Bengal regimental depot in Chittagong. He also completed advanced courses from the prestigious Command and Staff College in Quetta in 1966. After serving with a brigade in Sialkot, he was given command of the 3rd East Bengal Regiment in 1969 and the 7th East Bengal Regiment in 1971. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, he was interned along with other Bengali officers stationed in West Pakistan as a Prisoner of War at the outbreak of the 1971 Liberation War and repatriated to Bangladesh in 1973 in accordance with the Simla Agreement between India's Indira Gandhi and Pakistan's Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto.[4] He arrived back to his homeland - the new state of Bangladesh in 1973, and was appointed Adjutant General of the Bangladesh Army by Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. After attending advanced military courses in National Defence University (NDU), India, Ershad was appointed Deputy chief of army staff in 1975 by Major General Ziaur Rahman when Zia became the Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator following Chief Justice of Bangladesh Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem's elevation to the presidency on November 7, 1975.

Ershad remained loyal to Ziaur Rahman, Major General Zia had been appointed Army Chief by President of Bangladesh Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad after the Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's founding leader, on 15 August 1975 as the country headed towards communism banning multiparty rule by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman[citation needed]. Although Major General Ziaur Rahman was arrested in a counter-coup on November 3, 1975, he was restored to power in a coup led by Colonel Abu Taher on November 7, 1975. When Ziaur Rahman assumed the presidency after legalizing military coups and the revival of the multiparty system through the Fifth Amendment of the Bangladesh Constitution he appointed HM Ershad as the new Chief of Army Staff, promoting him to the rank of Lieutenant General.[5] Viewed as a professional soldier with no political aspiration because of his imprisonment during the Bangladesh Independence War in former West Pakistan and having a talent for Bengali speech writing, he soon became the closest politico-military counselor of Major General Ziaur Rahman.[4]

Presidency

Presidential Oath Taking Ceremony after 1987 elections, the Chief Justice and Military Secretary (1984-1989) Brigadier General ABM Elias is also seen

After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman on 30 May 1981, Ershad remained loyal[6] to the government and ordered the army to suppress the coup attempt of Zia's associates led by Major General Abul Manzoor. It is widely speculated[who?] that Monjur was used as a scapegoat and Ershad himself was behind the liquidation of President Zia; although never proven in any court of law, even when Zia's widow was in power in 1991-1996 and again in 2001-2006. Ershad maintained loyalty to the new president Abdus Sattar, who led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in elections in 1982. Ershad even alloted two houses to Mrs. Khaleda Zia and her two sons, one of them [7] in Dhaka Cantonment where Ziaur Rahman's family still resides, and became a centre point of controversy later on, and evicted from it in November 2010.

However the BNP government was not doing well and pressure increased from high-ranking army commanders for the military to take over the reins of state. Ershad came to power in a bloodless coup on 24 March 1982 and proclaimed himself Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA), President Justice Sattar was replaced.[8] He took over as president on 11 December 1983 by replacing A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury.[9]

SAARC Summit 1986, Dhaka Bangabhaban; HM Ershad, Rajiv Gandhi, Ziaul Huq among other Head of States

Ershad played a key role during the SAARC Summit in 1985, which was the first summit held in Dhaka, uniting all member states of South-East Asian States.[10] A significant achievement was that he brought together the leaders of arch rivals - India and Pakistan, Rajiv Gandhi and Ziaul Haque respectively.

As president, Ershad included amendments into the constitution of Bangladesh which declared Islam the state religion, abandoning state secularism[11][12]. To improve rural administration, Ershad introduced the Upazila and Zila Parishad system and held the 'first democratic elections for these village councils' in 1985.

In a sham Presidential Election, 1987, Ershad was nominated by Jatiyo Party, which had been created by him and his supporters. Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted it. The only significant candidate was Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd.) Syed Faruque Rahman, prime accused in the August 15 Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the November 3 jail killing in 1975. Faruque contested with shiff of paddy[clarification needed], otherwise, the traditional insignia of BNP. Ershad, however, won the election.

Although the BNP led by Khaleda Zia boycotted, the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina participated[13] in the Bangladeshi general election, 1986. The Jatiyo Party led by Ershad won the elections winning a majority in the Jatiyo Sangshad. In 1987 Bangladesh's Land Ministry launched the 'Land Reforms Action Program', an initiative to distribute khas – unoccupied state-owned land – to landless families. A novel element of the land reform was the establishment by the Ministry of Land.[14]

Ershad's regime is often seen[by whom?] as the longest autocratic rule in Bangladesh. Although there were two general elections, they were widely criticized by the opposition parties - BNP boycotted the election in 1986 but that election gained legitimacy as the other major opposition party Awami League founded by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Jamaat-e-Islami which was resurrected by President Ziaur Rahman also participated the election.

Both the BNP and the Awami League boycotted the Bangladeshi general election, 1988. There were some reports of violence, human rights abuse and corruption during his tenure, which, however, still is a common practice by any government in power in Bangladesh and simply multiplied. It should be noted that Transparency International branded Bangladesh as the most corrupt country in the world for the first time during the tenure of Awami League (1996 to 2001) and never went off the number one spot till the fall of BNP (2001 to 2006).[15][16]

UN award

He was awarded as a United Nations' Laureate twice during his presidency, from the United Nations.

  • In recognition of outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions and to their solution Ershad was awarded UN Population Award in 1987[1] by the General Assembly.
  • He campaigned for the early conclusion of an international convention on the protection and conservation of climate. He also proposed a worldwide fund to help developing countries stop environmental degradation; for which he was awarded the UN Environment Award in 1988[2]

Accomplishments

During Ershad's rule, the construction of the Jamuna Bridge connecting the country's east and west together, was started. The Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge Authority (JMBA) was set up by an ordinance promulgated by the President on July 3, 1985 to implement the project. For mobilisation of domestic resources, another ordinance was promulgated by which a Jamuna Bridge surcharge and levy were introduced. A total of Tk 5.08 billion was mobilised in the process till its abolition.[17]

H M Ershad stabilized the Bangladesh Armed Forces which was facing a series of Coups and counter Coups ever since its emergence as a nation in 1971. The South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal documents the Bangladesh Army's history regarding this. The Bangladesh Armed Forces did not attempt any coups since Ershad's takeover in 1982 till the fall of BNP government in 1996. The Awami League in alliance with Jatiya Party won Bangladeshi general election, June 1996.[18]

During Ershad's tenure as President of Bangladesh elected in 1986, the Bangladesh Army started its participation in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in 1988 for the very first[19] time.[20] The participation of Bangladesh Armed Forces in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations initiated by Ershad turned out to be one of the highest source of foreign currency earners today.[21]

He was the first leader in history to sign a death sentence for throwing acid on women. In the early eighties he himself signed the death sentence of three people who had thrown acid at girls refusing their advances and ordered their public hanging. This led to a dramatic lowering of throwing acid on girls. He also issued death sentence ruling for any one who would mutilate children for begging. In Bangladesh he was the one who passed a law that if a child is found crippled on the road he has to be taken to police custody and then from their to a hospital and appropriate institution. Any one who voluntarily cripples a child or any one is given a death sentence. This also led to a dramatic decline in crippling children begging in Bangladesh. He also had a long term ruling on health care with issuing free Tuberculosis and leprosy drugs for the patients in all the health complexes. He stopped human transportation on the Bangladesh Borders. He launched a wide spread campaign against use of Illicit drugs and opening of drug rehabillation centre in Bangladesh.

The Land Reforms Ordinance of 1984[1] granted important rights to tenants for the first time in the history of Bangladesh, and a new plan for the divestment of government industries promised to move the country away from socialism.

Downfall

A wide umbrella of political parties united against Ershad[citation needed]. Zia's widow Khaleda Zia now led the BNP, which allied itself with the Awami League, led by Mujib's daughter Sheikh Hasina; Awami League stopped its support to Ershad and resigned from the Parliament in 1987[citation needed]. The leftist parties and groups remained keen to keep other parties on the track towards the ousting of Ershad's regime. The Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and other parties also joined the opposition ranks. The strikes and protests called by the opposition groups paralysed the state and its economy. Under pressure, Ershad dissolved the parliament on 7 December 1987 but the fresh elections were again boycotted by the opposition. An intensifying opposition campaign launched by the students ultimately forced Ershad to step down on 6 December 1990. The West, that backed him for almost a decade, no longer supported the Non-Socialist President after the fall of USSR

He handed over power to Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed to form an acceptable neutral Caretaker Government; this was a move that was made for the very first time in the country's history and was not in the constitution at the time[citation needed]. Shahabuddin immediately placed Ershad under arrest. However this act by Shahabuddin was declared illegal by the country's Supreme Court later on.[22] Lt General Nuruddin Khan unlike his predecessor Lt Gen Atiqur Rahman did not back the President. In 1996 the newly elected Government of Awami League selected Shahabuddin as the President and Lt General Nuruddin Khan became the Energy Minister, only to be dismissed for gross mismanagement.[23]

Although anti-Ershad sentiment was strong, H M Ershad contested the election from jail and still won all 5 different constituencies he contested from in 1991[citation needed]. The new government led by the BNP's Khaleda Zia instituted a number of corruption charges. Ershad was convicted in two charges till date, while all others were dismissed and thrown out of court.

In the 1991 and 1996 elections, Ershad again won from five different constituencies from jail twice. In 1996 he provided his support to the Awami League and formed a government of consensus although his party sat on the opposition side of the parliament.

He was released from jail on 9 January 1997 by the government but only after unconditional support was provided to Awami League by the former President.

Arrest, charges and conviction

Arrest

On Sunday, 1 March 1998, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh ruled that President Hussain Muhammad Ershad's original arrest in 1990 by the Caretaker Government led by Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed was illegal.[22] This declaration by the country's apex court would allow him to sue for wrongful arrest as per his discretion. Shahabuddin Ahmed was President-select at the time of the ruling and no press release from him was found afterward. However Ershad was convicted on a separate charge eleven years after his original arrest.

Charges and convictions

H M Ershad has been convicted and served time for only one case that has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the nation - Janata Tower Case. When his relations with the ruling Awami League subsequently deteriorated as he joined hands with the other main opposition BNP of Khaleda Zia. This is the only conviction that has been upheld by the country's Supreme Court till date.

There are still a few other pending cases against him but most has been thrown out of the court or cleared him of any wrong doing. The most famous case that the BNP Government at the time falsely implicated him by was a gold smuggling case.[24] This was later thrown out by a Dhaka Court[25][26][27]

Personal life

Hussain Mohammad Ershad is married to Raushan Ershad, they have Shad Ershad.[citation needed].

A woman named Mary Mumtaz filed a suit against Ershad in USA, seeking dissolution of marriage. She alleged that he had abandoned her, thereby asked for inter alia, an award for spousal maintenance and distribution of marital properties. However, as per USA constitution of Immunity from Prosecution for Head of State of a Friendly Nation[28] the proceedings did not follow. This alleged third marriage stays unconfirmed as the matter was not perused..

His eldest son Shad Ershad ran into legal complications when he was arrested for allegedly abducting a 14 year old girl, later the girl's father has been quoted as saying she is mentally unstable.[29] Ershad claimed that this was a false accusation, made to discredit his party.[29] Ershad filed suit at High Court of Bangladesh of Bangladesh challenging the arrest.

Ershad has been linked by the media on different extra-marital affairs, which were on tabloids and newspapers in the country soon after his downfall which continued till 2006. His alleged affair with Zeenat Mosharraf, a member of Parliament almost removed him from the Chairmanship.[30]

His marriage with Bidisha ended in a bitter divorce and sedition charges brought by the then BNP Government against Bidisha.[31] H M Ershad divorced her for allegedly hiding her first marriage which still was not annulled at the time of their marriage.[32]

His wife and former first lady of Bangladesh Mrs. Raushan Ershad was also elected as a Member of Parliament thrice in the elections of 1991, 1996 and 2001. She contested the elections of 2008 from Ershad's Jatiya Party again but lost her seat in a controversial seat sharing deal against the party's ally Awami League.[33][34]

Later political career

Hussain Muhammad Ershad, is the only high profile politician to be convicted of corruption and serve a prison sentence. Legal complexities tend to prolong the investigation and settlement of the corruption cases against senior politicians in Bangladesh."We really don't know what will be the fate of these cases", lawyer Shahdeen Malik told the BBC.[35]

Ershad lost his membership in parliament owing to his conviction on charges of corruption when his relations with the ruling Awami League subsequently deteriorated. He switched his support to his one-time political adversary and main opposition leader, Khaleda Zia forming an anti-government coalition.[36][36] Thus the questionable court verdict followed.

Both Khaleda Zia of BNP and Sheikh Hasina of Awami League allied together to oust HM Ershad. Ironically both of these two top parties also allied with him and his Jatiya Party in time of their need to suit their purpose.[37][38]

On June 30, 2007 Ershad stepped down temporarily from the post of Party Chairman, indicating an end to his political career.[39] It is speculated that he stepped down under pressure as the Caretaker Government started a series of prosecution and arrest for corruption and criminal charges against political leaders of Awami League and BNP including Sheikh Hasina [40] Khaleda Zia [41][42] and her infamous son Tareq Rahman[43] among others.[44][45]

Return

On 8 April 2008, Ershad took charge of his Jatiya Party once again[46] Back in 2006 he protested against the controversial Election Commissioner (CEC) MA Aziz Decesion's process on holding polls. He later joined the street movement along with Awami League.[47]

On 19 November 2008 Jatiya Party & Awami League agreed to contest the elections jointly under the Caretaker Government to be held on 29 December 2008. Out of the 300 Constituencies in the Parliament, Ershad's Jatiya Party contest from 49 (later 42 as Awami League did not pull back its candidates from few seats as agreed earlier) seats and Awami League and members of a leftist Fourteen Party Coalition from the rest 250 seats.[48] Thus the Grand Alliance (Mohajote in Bangla) emerged in Bangladesh.

Ershad contested the Bangladesh Parliamentary Election 2008 from three constituencies. According to Bangladesh electoral laws, a person is allowed to contest from three places, but can retain only one seat and two are to have by-elections after formation of government. These constituencies included his birth place Rangpur (Rangpur-3 and Kurigram-2), and Dhaka-17, the capital's diplomatic zone, where he resides. He won all three seats in the election.

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External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ahsanuddin Chowdhury
President of Bangladesh
1983–1990
Succeeded by
Shahabuddin Ahmed
Acting

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