Bangladesh`s controversial ex-president passes away

Former Bangladesh president Iajuddin Ahmed whose eventful tenure ended with the installation of an Army backed interim govt in 2007 has died in Bangkok.

Dhaka: Former Bangladesh president Iajuddin Ahmed whose eventful tenure exposed the country to a major political turmoil that ended with the installation of an Army backed interim government in 2007 has died in Bangkok.

He was 81 years old and on life support for over a month.

"He (Ahmed) died at around 10.30 pm... He was under life support system since October 28 when he underwent a heart surgery," Ahmed`s son Imtiaz Ahmed Babu said in a statement from the Thai capital.

Babu said Ahmed`s condition deteriorated soon after the surgery as he developed complications in his kidney.

President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina statements mourning the death of Ahmed, originally a renowned soil scientist and university professor.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and ex-premier Khaleda Zia whose party elected him to presidency after the resignation of his predecessor in 2002 Professor AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury also issued a condolence message mentioning his role only as an "ideal educationist and social worker".

Ahmed`s unilateral act of declaring himself as the head of an interim government in 2006 after the BNP government quit as per constitutional obligations mired his office in controversies sparking widespread street protests and international criticism. He was widely accused of acting in favour of BNP.

His assumption as the interim government chief intensified the political unrest prompting intervention of the military.

He then reconstituted the interim administration and ran the country under emergency rules for the subsequent two years until the December 2008 elections.

Before quitting office and handing over powers to his successor Zillur Rahman in 2009, Ahmed, however, admitted that "I am a human being and as a man I am not above mistakes".

Later in a television interview, he attributed the developments of his time to "divine will" saying "everything has happened according to Allah`s will".

Asked if he was under pressure to declare a state of emergency on January 11, 2007, Ahmed simply replied, "I agreed with them" referring to the Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs who visited him at the presidential palace.

A former university teacher and president of a pro-BNP think tank, Ahmed became the titular head of the country during Zia`s past BNP-led four party government in 2002.

"You all know the adverse situation under which I had to act as the head of the caretaker government after the completion of the eighth parliament... But I never wanted any harm to any person or institution directly or indirectly," Ahmed had said.

His assumption as the interim government chief intensified the political unrest resulting in resignations of some ministers and appointment of some "controversial" advisers.

He also appointed two "controversial" commissioners to the election commission and vowed to stage elections on January 22, 2007, which the Awami League and most other political parties declared to boycott alleging that they were set to be rigged in BNP`s favour.

Ironically in the first sitting of the ninth parliament after the landmark December 29 general elections, BNP boycotted his parliamentary speech calling him a "traitor" for declaring emergency under army pressure and demanded his impeachment.

The pre-emergency situation and street protests that had claimed over a dozen lives prompted military to intervene with ostensible international support on January 11, 2007.

Ahmed was almost forced to declare a state of emergency, quit as the head of the interim government and appoint a reconstituted caretaker government.

Later, in an address Ahmed praised the military`s role, saying they saved the country from an anarchic situation.

"The strong and neutral role of army saved the country from an anarchic situation during a transition moment on January 11," he said.


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