Death of a tyrant
July 14th, 2019 at 5:03 pm
Death of a tyrant

By Nazrul Islam ;

Dhaka – Perhaps Hussain Muhammad Ersahd is one of the longest-lived political entities in the world despite being deposed as a military dictator in the face of mass upsurge.

The shrewd man, who usurped state power proclaiming martial law in Bangladesh in the early 1980s, had tossed many compromises to turn his political foes into friends. And, thus he survived unabashed and remained active until his end in Bangladeshi brand of democratic polity.

Those who waged anti-autocratic actions and carried out nationwide agitation to restore ‘democracy’ in Bangladesh, had turned to be trusted friends of the symbol an autocrat.

Ershad and autocracy had became synonymous in this part of the world thanks to the student movement of the 1980s when numerous students laid down their life in the anti-autocratic actions steered by two major political forces – Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Bangladesh anti-autocratic movement
Nur Hossain sacrificed his life for Bangladesh’s democracy

Ironically, Ershad had proved that the democratic movement waged by people from all strata was nothing but a futile exercise, especially on that part of those who laid down their lives for the cause of so-called democracy. He managed to escape the trial that was demanded by the all-party student unity in the 1990, a few months ahead of the fall of a tyrant.

The memories of the days in turbulence might have gone fade, but will the souls of those who got killed in the anti-autocratic movement be rest in peace leaving the man, who is responsible for so many destructions, scot-free?

Rather, in course of time he turned to be Pallibondhu (friend of villagers) as his Jatiyo Party, which was floated using public office to legitimate seize of state power. He took the advantage of an ever-ending power struggle in Bangladesh.

The former military dictator Ershad died at a hospital in Dhaka on Sunday at the age of 89. He was the chairman of opposition Jatiyo Party and the leader of the opposition in parliament at the time of his death.

Shahbagh on February 14, 1983 during an anti-Ershad demonstration

He breathed last at Dhaka’s Combined Military Hospital in the morning, according to a spokesman of the Inter Service Public Relations department of Bangladesh Army.  The former president had been suffering from various old-age complications and he was put on life support for the last 10 days.

And he will be buried in full state honour after four funeral prayers – three in Dhaka and one in at his ancestral home in Rangpur.   

The army-chief turned president ruled the country for nine years from 1982 to 1990. Ershad took over power on March 24, 1982 when he was the army chief of Bangladesh, less than nine months after another army-chief turned president Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in a military coup.

Ershed, who repatriated from Pakistan in 1973 under the Shimla Agreement as he claimed he was confined in Pakistan during Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war, removed then-president Abdus Sattar in a bloodless.

He ran the country with an iron fist until December 1990 and tried to thwart opposition by shooting bullets or plugging through trucks on rallies or processions.  

Hussain Muhammd Ershad

Born on February 1, 1930 in Cooch Behar district in the-then British India, Ersahd was graduated from Dhaka University in 1950. He was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in 1952 and served at different capacities until Bangladesh was independent.

On his return from Karachi, Ershad managed quick promotions in army and was appointed army chief by president Ziaur Rahman, in 1978. He announced him president in December 1983, less than two years after his take over as head of martial law administrator.

The man was detained soon after his fall over charges of corruption, misuse of power, but was released on bail in January 1997 to run his Jatiyo Party. Most of the cases against him were either withdrawn or squashed.

Bangladeshi journalist
Nazrul Islam is a journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The writer can be reached by e-mail ; nimithu@gmail.com