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DHAKA: Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman (pictured), a veteran ruling party politician named president in 2009, died yesterday in a Singapore hospital, officials said. He was 84.
Rahman, who was suffering from kidney and respiratory problems, was flown to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital by air ambulance on March 10 after his conditions worsened.
The nation declared three days of mourning after his death in early evening and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her “profound shock” and lamented “an irreparable loss to the country and its people”.
Rahman’s Secretary Shafiul Alam said the close aide of the nation’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had been suffering from “old age complications”. He is survived by a son, who is a lawmaker, and two daughters.
The body of the former deputy chief of the ruling Awami League will be flown back to the country today, he said, with his funeral and burial taking place tomorrow afternoon.
A lawyer by profession and one of the longest serving lawmakers of the country, who first joined parliament in 1973, Rahman made his name as an activist who pushed for Bangladesh to break free from Pakistani rule.
As a student leader and political organiser he played an active role in the Language Movement in 1952 for the establishment of Bengali as a state language, a crucial campaign that helped cement the idea of Bangladeshi statehood.
He played a key role in keeping the party united after Hasina was arrested by a military-backed government in 2007.
The Awami League won a landslide victory in the December 2008 elections and Rahman became an MP for the sixth time and took the oath as the 19th President on February 12, 2009. His wife Ivy, a politician, died in August 2004 after she was injured in a grenade attack on a League rally that also killed 20 others. AFP