Bangladesh begins 3-day state mourning at president's death



Dhaka: The national flag flew half mast as Bangladesh on Thursday began a three-day state mourning following the death of President Zillur Rahman, one of the country's senior most politicians.

Rahman, 85, died yesterday at a Singapore hospital where he was being treated for kidney and respiratory problems.

A sense of grief widely blanketed the country as a special aircraft of state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines is set to bring the body back home later today.

The presidential palace announced that he would be buried tomorrow at a city graveyard beside his wife Ivy Rahman.

On arrival at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Rahman's body would be brought straight to presidential palace for viewing of senior government leaders and common people.

The mass circulation Prothom Alo newspaper carried a headline 'the nation lost the guardian', while the Daily Samakal wrote, 'Goodbye to The Guardian' while most newspapers published special editorial notes mourning the death of soft-spoken Rahman.

Rahman was the senior most leader of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League ahead of his installation as the virtually ceremonial and non-party head of the state in 2009.

His death brought a temporary period of lull in political rivalry over 1971 war crimes trial and electoral system.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) withdrew its planned general strike in Dhaka district today as a mark of respect to Rahman. BNP chief and ex-premier Khaleda Zia joined her archrival Hasina in mourning the death.

"He (Rahman) was a soft-spoken, polite and good man. He never made any derogatory or aggressive remarks about the opposition...With his demise, Bangladesh has lost an experienced and wise political figure (and) the vacuum created by his death would not be filled anytime soon," Zia said in a statement.

PTI