Admirers bid tearful goodbyes
Speculation and daylong commotion have come to an end with Jatiya Party (JaPa) Chairman Hussain Muhammad Ershad being buried in Rangpur.
The former president was laid to rest with state honours in the Lychee Orchard within the compound of Mokbul Hossain General and Diabetes Hospital, adjacent to his Palli Nibash in Darshana of the city on Tuesday afternoon.
Thousands of people, including Jatiya Party leaders and activists, lawmakers, leaders and activists of different political parties, and army personnel, including members of other law enforcement agencies, were present at the burial.
Draped in national and army flags, the coffin of former army chief HM Ershad was carried by military personnel to his grave. They organized the burial and ensured discipline at the venue as thousands of people thronged there to bid farewell to Ershad.
A one minute silence showing respect to him was observed after the army read out the life sketch of the former army chief.
After the burial, the large congregation offered prayers for the eternal peace of the departed soul of Ershad.
The JaPa chief’s burial took a dramatic turn with the fourth and final namaz-e-janaza after zuhr prayers.
Also Read- Thousands pay tribute to Ershad
Minutes before the funeral prayer at Collectorate Eidgah in the city, Jatiya Party Secretary General Moshiur Rahman Ranga spoke to the people, but thousands of them started demanding Ershad be laid to rest in Rangpur. Later on, the party Acting Chairman GM Quader also failed to calm them, with people shouting and demanding Ershad’s burial in Rangpur.
The janaza started chaotically around 2:15pm.
However, a large contingent of law enforcement were on alert as local leaders had declared they would not allow the plan of senior leaders to go ahead, who had earlier decided to bury Ershad at the Military Graveyard in Dhaka instead of Rangpur. In their desperate attempt, local leaders dug and prepared the grave on Monday night, protesting the central leaders’ decision.
Soon after the janaza, Rangpur city Mayor Mostafizar Rahman and city unit Secretary SM Yasir Ahmed, took over control of the ambulance that was carrying the coffin of Ershad. Local party leaders and activists cordoned off the ambulance and escorted it to the Palli Nibash.
Meanwhile, the party in a dramatic turnaround issued a statement, saying Ershad would be buried in Rangpur.
The statement said Raushan Ershad, wife of Ershad and senior co-chair of the party, gave permission to bury him in the district. She was in Dhaka during the burial.
"It is impossible to overlook the love, affection, and respect of the people of Rangpur for Ershad," she said. "We have decided to put him to rest in Rangpur because of that."
In the statement, she also requested to be buried beside the grave of HM Ershad upon her demise.
On Tuesday morning, the body of Ershad was brought to Rangpur by a Bangladesh Air Force helicopter from Tejgaon airport in Dhaka.
The body was accompanied by Jatiya Party acting Chairman GM Quader, Secretary General Moshiur Rahman Ranga, former secretary general ABM Ruhul Amin Hawlader, and Ershad’s son, Rahgir Al Mahi Shad Ershad.
The former autocratic ruler, HM Ershad breathed his last at 7:45am on Sunday, undergoing treatment at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka.
A total of three funeral prayers were held for Ershad in Dhaka on Sunday and Monday. His body was brought to the Jatiya Party’s Kakrail office on Monday to show respect to the leader of the opposition in parliament.
His Qulkhwani will be held on Wednesday at Gulshan’s Azad mosque in the capital.
Ershad: From military ruler to a politician
A person who was barely known in the 1970s, became one of the most influential characters of the country's politics from the early 1980s.
On April 24, 1982, Ershad usurped state power as the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) with a bloodless coup.
Later, Ershad assumed the country’s presidency in December 1983 and formed the Jatiya Party in 1986. Following a nationwide mass movement, Ershad was finally forced to step down on December 6, 1990.
He was arrested in 1991 and was released on bail in January 1997 after serving six years in jail.
Though ousted by a protracted pro-democracy mass movement in 1990, unlike many other dictators, Ershad remained an important factor in alliance-based polarized politics in Bangladesh for all these years till his death.
Ershad, a five-time lawmaker, was sued in over 26 cases on various charges with one case, General Manzoor’s murder, still pending.