Dhaka: Bangladesh’s former president and chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed passed away on Friday at the age of 92 at a military hospital here.
Ahmed, who was the interim head of state as the consensus nominee of all parties amid a mass upsurge in 1990 to topple ex-military dictator HM Ershad, had been suffering from complications due to old age for some time. He was being treated at CMH (Dhaka’s combined military hospital) since February 23, his family told the media.
Ex-military dictator Ershad, bowing to pressure from opposition political parties amid an uprising, handed over power to the then Chief Justice Ahmed after nine years of rule under an extra-ordinary constitutional arrangement on December 6, 1990.
He became the head of the government as acting president of Bangladesh. Ahmed was the consensus nominee of now incumbent Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and a Left leaning five-party alliance.
Ahmed, who was a nominee of Ershad as well, however, was forced to send the deposed president to jail to calm the political unrest and Ershad spent six years in prison on corruption charges.
But Ahmed was appreciated more for holding a free and credible election in the country in February 1991 under his non-partisan caretaker government with non-political persons and during his nine-month rule ensured press freedom by amending a number of laws, including the Special Powers Act.
After his presidential tenure, he resumed his position as the chief justice in line with a previous understanding with major political parties, but his return to the Supreme Court had required an amendment to the Constitution.
The 1991 election brought the BNP to power while the subsequent 1996 election installed Awami League. Ahmed by that time retired as the chief justice and Awami League made him the President again, this time as the titular head of the state as Bangladesh by then adopted the parliamentary form of government.
Family sources and Supreme Court officials said Ahmed would be buried at Dhaka’s Banani graveyard on Sunday.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Hasina mourned Ahmed’s death and prayed for his eternal peace.
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