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Virtual Bangladesh : Biography

Khaleda Zia

Khaleda Zia was born to Iskandar Majumder, a businessman, and Taiyaba Majumder at Dinajpur district in north-western Bangladesh in 1945. In 1960, she got married to Ziaur Rahman. Her husband, one of the prominent heroes of the country's liberation war, later became the President of the Republic and formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Until the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman in an abortive military coup in Chittagong on 30 May 1981, Khaleda Zia had taken little interest in either politics or public life.

 Even when her husband was propelled to power after the political changes in 1975, she remained a shy and withdrawn housewife who devoted most of her time grooming up her two sons.

After the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman, his Vice-President Justice Abdus Sattar took over as the acting President and also the Chairman of the BNP which the slain president founded in 1978.

Within four months of the presidential election in November 1981, the then Chief of Army Staff General H.M. Ershad overthrew Justice Sattar and the BNP government. On 24 March 1982, he proclaimed martial law .

In March 1983, Justice Sattar appointed Khaleda Zia a vice-chairman of BNP. On February 1984, she became the chairperson as Justice Sattar retired from politics. On 10 August the same year, the party elected her the chairperson.

Meanwhile, BNP formed a seven-party alliance in September 1983 to step up movement against the autocratic regime of General Ershad. Khaleda was detained seven times during almost nine years of autocratic rule.

In the face of mass upsurge spearheaded by Khaleda-led seven-party alliance and the eight-party combine led by Hasina, President Ershad resigned on 6 December 1990. He handed over power to a neutral caretaker government, bringing an end to his nine-year autocratic rule.

In 1991, she became the country's first woman Prime Minister through a free and fair general election on 27 February 1991 and formed the government.

She became Prime Minister for the second consecutive term after the BNP had a landslide victory in 15 February 1996 general election to the sixth Jatiya Sangsad. The election was, however, boycotted by all other major parties.

In the 12 June 1996 polls, BNP lost to Sheikh Hasina's Awami League but emerged as the largest opposition party in the country's parliamentary history with 116 seats.

The BNP restored the parliamentary system through the 12th amendment to the Constitution in 1991 and introduced the Caretaker Government through 13th amendment to the Constitution in 1996.

When in power, the government of Khaleda made considerable progress in the education sector, introducing compulsory free primary education, free education for girls up to class ten, stipend for the girl students and food for education programme. It also increased the age-limit for entry into government services from 27 years to 30 years and made highest budgetary allocation in the education sector.

Aiming to return to power, the BNP formed a four-party opposition alliance on 6 January 1999 with the Jatiya Party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Oikya Jote and launched several agitation programmes against the ruling Awami League. 

The alliance then participated in the 1 October general election and won the polls with a two-third majority and Khaleda Zia was once again sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

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