The BNP has held a Milad to celebrate Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s birthday instead of cutting a cake this year.Scores of leaders and activists attended the special prayers at the party headquarters in Dhaka’s Naya Paltan on Monday.Khaleda celebrated the birthday by cutting cake at her Gulshan office in the first hours of Aug 15 in past years, but this year it was different.Aug 15 is also the National Mourning Day, the same day Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members were brutally killed in 1975.Amidst calls from the ruling Awami League leaders to not celebrate the birthday, Khaleda decided to avoid ceremonies this year “considering the floods in the country and oppression by the government”.
After the special prayers, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters that the party chief thought celebrating the birthday will not be a good call due to the situation the country is in because of the floods and political and social circumstances.Jatiyatabadi Ulama Dal General Secretary Shah Nesarul Haque conducted the Milad.Mirza Fakhrul said apart from praying for Khaleda, her late husband Ziaur Rahman and their sons, they also prayed for an end to the sufferings of the victims of the flood.Khaleda, a three-time prime minister, has turned 71 this year, BNP leaders said.She has been facing criticism for commemorating her birthday on Aug 15, the National Mourning Day, as there is great confusion about when she was actually born.Khaleda’s father Iskandar Majumder, originally from Feni, was a resident of Dinajpur. Khaleda was born there. Her mother was Tayeba Majumder.Khaleda married Ziaur Rahman, then a captain of the Pakistan Army, in August 1960. Zia fought as a sector commander in the 1971 Liberation War.But in the aftermath of the Bangabandhu’s assassination and a coup in 1975, which was followed by several more, Major Zia managed to capture power and emerge as the country’s first military dictator.The assassination of President Zia in May 1981 propelled Khaleda, who was a housewife until then, into the political hot seat. She began as the party’s vice-chairman and in 1984, became chairperson.Khaleda played a big role in the movement against another military dictator HM Ershad, now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Special Envoy.The BNP chairperson’s role was crucial in creating a popular base for the party, which was born in the cantonment, say political analysts.The party won the 1991 elections and Khaleda became the first female prime minister of Bangladesh. She was also prime minister for a brief period after a controversial election in February 1996.In 2001, the BNP-led coalition won the election and she once again became the prime minister. In the 2008 elections, she, however, sat in Parliament as the Leader of the Opposition.As her party boycotted the Jan 5, 2014 elections, Khaleda lost her seat in Parliament for the first time in 24 years, thus losing her state protocol.