Dhaka. Flags flew at half-mast across Bangladesh on Thursday as the country mourned its president Zillur Rahman, following his death in a Singapore hospital at the age of 84.
Bangladesh has declared a three-day period of national mourning and a public holiday on Thursday for the leader with one of the most illustrious political careers who played a leading role in the country’s independence struggle.
Political parties set aside their bitter rivalries to pay tribute to the veteran politician whose job as president was largely ceremonial.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called it “an irreparable loss to the country and its people”.
Local media mourned the death of the nation’s “guardian” who was known for his humility.
A UN spokesman said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was saddened by the death of Rahman, who “made important contributions to the country’s democratic transition throughout his political life”.
US Secretary of State John Kerry recalled Rahman’s efforts that “helped lead to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, and his subsequent decades of public service helped Bangladesh establish itself as the democracy it is today”.
His body was flown back to the capital’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at around noon, president’s spokesman Nesar Uddin Bhuiyan said.
“A ceremonial motorcade will bring the body to the presidential palace where it will be given guard of honour,” he told AFP.
Hasina, her cabinet members, and dignitaries will pay their last respect at the palace in the afternoon, which will be followed by relatives, friends and people of all walks of life, he added.
He will be buried at a Dhaka graveyard at 5:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) Friday after funeral prayers in the capital.
Rahman, who was suffering from kidney and respiratory problems, was flown to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital by air ambulance on March 10 after his health worsened. He died on Wednesday.
A lawyer by profession and one of the longest serving lawmakers in the country, Rahman first joined parliament in 1973 after making his name as an activist who pushed for Bangladesh to break free from Pakistani rule.