Veteran Awami League leader Zillur Rahman,a close aide to Premier Sheikh Hasina,was on Thursday sworn in as Bangladesh’s 19th President,a day after the Election Commission declared him elected unopposed to the highest office in the country.
Chief Justice MM Ruhul Amin administered the oath of office to 79-year-old Rahman at a sparkling ceremony at the Bangabhaban presidential palace amid tight security this evening. Guests witnessing the ceremony gave him a standing ovation as the swearing-in got over.
Prime Minister Hasina and outgoing President Iajuddin Ahmed joined the installation ceremony of the new head of the state along with several hundred distinguished guests,including Cabinet members and family of the new and outgoing Presidents.
Rahman,who was the senior most leader of Hasina’s Awami League until his inauguration,was the lone candidate for presidency as the nominee of the ruling party.
Hasina’s arch-rival and former premier Khaleda Zia of BNP was not present at the ceremony but a delegation of the main opposition party joined the function.
The BNP had earlier welcomed his election to the highest office of the republic.
“I will do everything possible within my limited capability for safeguarding democracy and people’s welfare.
You know well that the president enjoys limited power (under parliamentary form of government). I will do my job as best I can within those limits,” Rahman told newsmen yesterday after the Election Commission announcement.
“I will work for the people neutrally,even though I will be away from active politics,” he said.
Rahman was elected as a lawmaker in the 9th parliamentary election held on December 29,and past polls of 1973,1986,1996 and 2001,from his Kishoreganj (Kuliarchar-Bhairab) constituency. He was first elected to the then provincial assembly of erstwhile East Pakistan in 1970 elections.
Awami League led by Hasina bagged three-fourth seats in the 300-member National Assembly in the December 29 polls,dealing a stunning blow to BNP.
Rahman,who has two daughters and a son,lost his wife Ivy Rahman,also a senior Awami League leader,in August 2004 in a grenade attack by militants targeting Sheikh Hasina,who narrowly escaped it.
“I miss her (Ivy). I remember the August 21 incident today.I am still moved by the day,” he said in a choked voice. Rahman,a lawyer by profession,was also close aide to Hasina’s father and Bangladesh’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Rahman was regarded a key figure in consolidating the Awami League’s unity,including during the post-1975 period of political wilderness after the assassination of Bangabandhu along with most of his family members in a military coup.
He is also widely regarded for his role in uniting the party during the past two years of emergency rule when Hasina was in jail for nearly a year to face graft charges.
“Zillur Rahman is one of the country’s senior most politician who has made contributions to country’s all democratic campaigns since the 1952 Language Movement … He has the priority to become the President,” Hasina said earlier this month announcing his nomination.