I fulfilled a historic obligation: Ex-Bangladesh dictator


Dhaka : Bangladesh’s longest serving ruler, H.M. Ershad, indicted by the Supreme Court for seizing power in 1982, has said that he had “fulfilled a historic obligation” to prevent the country from slipping into chaos.

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“The responsibility of ruling the country had been bestowed on me due to a historical obligation in 1982,” he was quoted as saying Sunday, two days after the full text of the judgment delivered last August was made public.

The ailing octogenarian lawmaker said a chaotic situation was prevailing in the country before the state power was “bestowed” on him. The situation was like a threat to independence, sovereignty and the democratic system, he told cadres of his Jatiya Party Saturday.

“I was a soldier and it was my duty to act as a guard to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty. I did not want to do politics,” Ershad was quoted as saying by The Daily Star Sunday.

At the end of his speech, Ershad said without specifying anything: “I am a human being and I might make mistakes and I cordially regret for that.”

Ershad was the army chief when the then president Ziaur Rahman was killed in a military coup d’etat in May 1981. A year later, he seized power and ruled till 1990.

The apex court annulled the seventh amendment to the constitution by which Ershasd’s actions had been legitimized. There are various interpretations of the verdict, one of which is that he should be tried for violating the constitution.

Media reports in the wake of the verdict last year said that a “nervous” Ershad had met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and that he was supposed to have been asked to maintain a low profile.

Ersdhad’s Jatiya Party is a constituent of the ruling alliance led by Hasina.

Some of the alliance members were quoted by the New Age newspaper as putting Hasina “under pressure” to institute Ershad’s trial.

However, Ershad Saturday was critical of the performance of the Hasina government, saying that it had failed in all sectors except agriculture and food in the first two years of its five-year tenure.

The country’s politics was “heading towards a disaster”, he said.

“Not much time is left in hand. I appeal to the leadership of all parties…I appeal to find out a way to overcome the disaster ahead,” he said.