H.M. Ershad, Former President of Bangladesh, Is Dead at 89


Gen. H. M. Ershad, the military dictator of Bangladesh for most of the 1980s, died on Sunday in Dhaka, the nation’s capital. He was 89.

His younger brother, G. M. Quader, confirmed the death, in a military hospital. He said that General Ershad had a number of health problems, including infections in his lungs and kidneys, and had been admitted to the hospital on June 26.

General Ershad assumed power as military chief in 1982 and declared himself president the next year. He later created the Jatiya Party and was elected in 1986, although his victory was marred by charges of vote fraud.

Hussain Muhammad Ershad was born on Feb. 1, 1930, in the Coochbehar district of West Bengal state in India, which was under British rule at the time. His parents migrated to what is now Bangladesh but was then part of Pakistan in 1948, after the end of British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent.

Complete information on survivors was not available.

He attended officer training school in Kohat, Pakistan, and was commissioned into the Pakistan Army in 1952. He was an adjutant in the East Bengal Regiment, the largest formation in the future Bangladesh Army.

After completing advanced courses at the Command and Staff College in Quetta, Pakistan, in 1966, General Ershad returned to Bangladesh in 1973, two years after the country won independence from Pakistan following a nine-month war.

He took over as the chief martial law administrator in a bloodless coup in 1982 and removed the elected government.

He became president of Bangladesh in December 1983 and held that post until 1990, when he was ousted in an uprising led by Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, who have been ruling Bangladesh intermittently since its return to democracy in 1991. Ms. Hasina is the current prime minister.

While in office, General Ershad suspended the country’s constitution and Parliament and cracked down on his political opponents. He amended the constitution by declaring Islam the state religion in 1988. (Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation.)

After his ouster, he was arrested in 1991 on more than two dozen charges. He was acquitted of many of them but convicted of corruption and imprisoned for six years. He was also accused of backing a 1991 military coup in which one of his close military associates was killed. That case is still pending.

While critics say General Ershad destroyed many state institutions, defenders point out that he decentralized Bangladesh’s administrative structure by bringing rural areas under a development agenda that included the construction of many highways and other infrastructure projects. During his rule, Bangladesh improved relations with the United States and nations in the Middle East.

He was elected to Parliament in 2008, 2014 and 2018. At his death, he was the opposition leader.

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