Former Bangladesh military dictator Ershad dies, aged 90

Former Bangladeshi military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad died on Sunday at the age of 90, local media reported. Ershad was suffering from kidney and liver complications and was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka on June 27.

"He died today morning after suffering for about three weeks," Sunil Shuva Roy, Ershad's press secretary, told reporters.

Ershad's rule was marked by his controversial Islamization drive, including his decision to make Islam the state religion of the then officially secular Muslim-majority country.

Read more: Bangladesh democracy at a crossroads

Coup and ouster

After President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated on May 30, 1981, Ershad removed the elected government headed by President Abdus Sattar, who had led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in the 1982 vote, and seized power in a bloodless military coup on March 24, 1982.

The general ruled the country as Chief Martial Law Administrator until December 1983, but after sacking then President Ahsanuddin Chowdhury and suspending the constitution, Ershad took over as president.

A movement for the restoration of democracy, led by incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her political rival, Khaleda Zia, forced Ershad to step down on December 6, 1990.

Read more: Opinion: Bangladesh's missed chance to become a functional democracy

Political career

The former military dictator was arrested in 1991 and sent to jail on corruption charges. He was released on bail in 1997.

Ershad's Jatiya Party won 14 seats in the 2001 general election. In 2006, he formed an alliance with current Prime Minister Hasina's Awami League party.

Since the end of Ershad's military rule, Bangladeshi politics has revolved around Hasina and Zia. Prime Minister Hasina's government last year jailed Zia for a decade over graft charges.

shs/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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