Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – The First President of Bangladesh
Born on 17 March 1920 in the Gopalganj District of Bengal, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has long been noted as being the founder of Bangladesh. He is also often called ‘Bangabandhu’ which means ‘Friend of Bengal’ – a rather fitting nickname for this noteworthy political leader.
Mujib started his political career as a student political leader in the Awami League of East Pakistan. Even at this early stage in his career, he was known for being a charismatic and moving public speaker. He quickly gained popularity by spouting socialist ideas wherein Bengalis would be treated as equals instead of being discriminated against. Mujib demanded that Bengal be given increased provincial autonomy and he also vehemently opposed the rule of Ayub Khan. In 1968 he was arrested and tried for allegedly conspiring with the Indian government against West Pakistan, but he was not found guilty. He went on to win the 1970 elections by a landslide, clearly gaining popularity with the people but at the same time incurring disfavor with Pakistani politicians.
Sometime later Mujib was arrested after talks with President Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto broke down. A guerrilla war ensued, which eventually lead to a full-scale conflict between the Pakistan Army and the Bangladesh-India Joint forces. During the course of this war, it was eventually determined that East Bengal should be made into a country of its own and thus Bangladesh was finally established. Mujib was released from prison and able to assume office as the first president of Bangladesh. Later he served as prime minister but despite his best efforts, he was unable to solve the problems of poverty and unemployment that plagued his people. Still, he was able to help the country adopt a new constitution that echoed the ideals of socialism and secular democracy which was a big step for the country.
Despite his best efforts to better the lives of the people of Bangladesh, his time in office was fraught by political upheavals and conflicts. Unfortunately, Mujib was assassinated with his family by a group of army officers in 1975 in Dhaka. Despite the controversy surrounding his last few years in office, Mujib will always be remembered fondly as the founding father of Bangladesh.