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Prime Minister's Life Sketch

 

BEGUM KHALEDA ZIA

Begum Khaleda Zia

Hon'ble Prime Minister

Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh

 

 

Begum Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of the Government of the People�s Republic of Bangladesh, was born on 15 August 1945.

 

She was the third among  the five children of her parents. She passed her Matriculation Examination from Dinajpur Government School and got herself admitted to Surendranath College, Dinajpur. She was married in August 1960 to Ziaur Rahman, then a Captain in the Pakistan Army who  proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 and later became the President of the Republic in 1977.

 

It was the tragic death of her husband President Ziaur Rahman in May 1981, that changed her entire life-pattern and brought her into the mainstream of national politics, and eventually to the seat of power. Power, however, did not come automatically to Begum Khaleda Zia. She had to earn it at an immense cost and personal sacrifices. She encountered personal tragedies in the assassination of her husband, courted arrests eight times in nine years and had to continually undergo harassment and repression at the hands of the autocratic regime. But nothing could deter her from her mission of freeing the nation from autocratic rule and reestablishing a democratic polity in the country.

 

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which her husband founded and the people, at large, looked towards her for leadership at the critical juncture of the nation. She stood resolutely, took the reins of BNP and with like- minded pro-democratic parties and elements, formed the 7-party Alliance and started uncompromising resistance against the usurper of people�s rights.

 

In the Parliamentary elections that followed on 27 February 1991 under a Non-Party Caretaker Government, Begum Khaleda Zia led her party to a thumping victory, herself emerging as the most popular political leader of the country. On March 20, 1991 she was sworn in as the country�s first woman Prime Minister in a Presidential form of Government. Respecting the wishes of the people, Begum Khaleda Zia and her party took the lead in switching over from the Presidential to the Parliamentary system of Government in order to give the hard-won democracy a permanent institutional shape. She formally took over as the Head of Government on 19 September 1991under the Parliamentary system.

 

Begum Zia�s Daal-Bhaat (lentil and rice) approach received both regional and international acceptance as a tangible programme for poverty alleviation in SAARC countries as well as in other developing nations.

 

She became Prime Minister for the second consecutive term after the February 1996 general election.

 

Her party BNP restored the parliamentary system through the 12th amendment to the Constitution in 1991 and introduced the Caretaker Government for holding neutral and free election through 13th amendment to the Constitution in 1996.

 

The government of Khaleda Zia made tangible progress in empowering huge rural womenfolk in the countryside. Her government brought about major reforms in the education sector that included introduction of compulsory free primary education, free education for girl students, stipends for girl students and food for education programme. Side by side, she initiated bold reforms to revitalise national economy, accelerate production in all sectors and to alleviate poverty. Agriculture, the mainstay of Bangladesh�s economy, was given the main thrust to achieve autarky in food production in the shortest possible time.

 

Promoting good neighbourly relations, strengthening regional cooperation within the ambit of SAARC, strict adherence to the UN Charter and furthering world peace and amity were the cornerstones of her government�s foreign policy.

 

In the 1996 polls, the BNP emerged as the largest opposition party in the country�s parliamentary history with 116 seats. The party under the leadership of Begum Zia formed a four-party opposition alliance on January 6, 1999.

 

The alliance participated in the October 1, 2001 general election held under a Non-party Caretaker Government and won the polls with two-thirds majority. Begum Khaleda Zia was sworn in on 10 October, 2001 as the Prime Minister of the Government of the People�s Republic of Bangladesh for the third time.

 

Soon after assuming the responsibilities of the government in October, 2001 she announced a 100-day programme to fulfill her election pledges to the nation.

 

She has two sons. Her hobbies include reading, listening to music and gardening.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tel: (880-2)9562862 l Fax: (880-2) 9555283 l E-mail: webmaster@mofabd.org

 

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