Begum Khaleda Zia (Bengali: খালেদা জিয়া) (born 15 August 1945) is a Bangladeshi politician who was Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2006. When she first took office in 1991, she was the first woman in the country’s history and second in the Muslim world (after Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan in 1988–1990) to head a democratic government as prime minister. She is the widow of President Ziaur Rahman, who was assassinated in 1981, and leads the party he founded, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
After a bloodless coup in 1982, led by Army Chief General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, Khaleda Zia led the struggle for democracy till the fall of military dictator Ershad in 1990. Khaleda has been elected as Prime Minister three times, and she has been elected to five separate parliamentary constituencies in the general elections of 1991, 1996 and 2001.
Forbes magazine ranked Zia at number 29 in 2005 and number 33 in 2006 in its list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.[
A neutral caretaker government oversaw elections on 27 February 1991 that were broadly considered to be free, fair and truly democratic. The BNP won 140 seats, 11 short of a majority. However, it was the only party capable of forming a government, and Khaleda Zia was sworn in as the country’s first female prime minister on 20 March with the support of a majority of the deputies. Acting president Shahabuddin Ahmed granted her nearly all of the powers that were vested in the president at the time, effectively returning Bangladesh to a parliamentary system in September 1991. With a unanimous vote cutting across all political lines, the BNP-led government formally restored the parliamentary system through the 12th amendment to the Constitution in 1991.
The BNP had a landslide victory on 15 February 1996 general election to the sixth Jatiya Sangshad. The election was, however, boycotted by all other major parties who were demanding that the elections be held under a neutral caretaker government. The short-lived parliament hastily introduced the Caretaker Government through 13th amendment to the Constitution, and then was dissolved to pave the way for the parliamentary elections. In the 12 June 1996 polls, BNP lost to Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League but emerged as the largest opposition party in the country’s parliamentary history with 116 seats.
Aiming to return to power, the BNP formed a four-party alliance on 6 January 1999 with its former political foe the Jatiya Party, and the Islamic party of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and the Islami Oikya Jot and launched several agitation programmes against the ruling Awami League. Khaleda Zia, has been criticized much for making alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami, the party which opposed the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. The four-party alliance then participated in the 1 October 2001 general elections and won the election with a two-third majority of seats in parliament and 46% of the vote (compared to the principal opposition party’s 40%) and Khaleda Zia was once again sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Soon after taking over the responsibilities of the government, she successfully accomplished a 100-day program to fulfill most of her election pledges to the nation. During this term, the share of domestic resources in economic development efforts also grew during her this term in sharp contrast to the picture during the previous regime that even had to borrow from abroad to pay salary of government employees. Bangladesh enjoyed a positive image in the international community at the time for which very big investment teams, as never before or afterwards, were sent by United States, Great Britain, Japan to name a few. Even then, industrial investment including from abroad grew substantially during her first term in office.
Restoration of law and order was a big achievement during the period. Her government pursued a dynamic and positive foreign policy promoting good neighborly relations, especially look-east policy, bolstering regional cooperation in South Asia, strict adherence to the UN Charter and furthering world peace and amity, peaceful and negotiated settlement of all international disputes, renunciation of use of force in international relations. It was during her tenure that Bangladesh’s involvement began to increase rapidly in international peacekeeping efforts under the UN blue helmets. In 2006, Forbes commented about this regime as Zia once again gained the helm in 2001, pursuing her platform mainstays: educating young girls (nearly 70% of Bangladeshi women were illiterate) and distributing food to the poor, (half of Bangladesh’s 135 million people live below the poverty line). Though many challenges remain, Zia has managed to promote strong GDP growth (5%) based on economic reforms and support of a burgeoning entrepreneurial culture.
End of term
On 29 October 2006 Khaleda Zia’s term in office ended. On the eve of the last day rioting broke out on the streets of central Dhaka following uncertainty over who would succeed her as chief advisor (Chief of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh). On the same day evening, it was declared that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Khondokar Mahmud Hasan (K M Hasan), who had been due to take over as Chief Advisor, would not be assuming the role due to ill health.  Subsequently, president Iajuddin Ahmed, assumed power as Chief Advisor on 29 October 2006. President tried his best to hold elections facing all odd. Presidential advisor Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury met both Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, solved political problems, met demands of Political parties and their allies to accommodate them in elections to avoid military intervention in the name of one sided elections.
As a result, on 24 December Sheikh Hasina announced that her grand alliance will participate in coming elections although Ershad asked not to extend date of submissition of nomination as his party candidates filed all their candidature. At Sheikh Hasina’s demand Presidential Adviser negotiated with Election Commission and managed to extend two days to file nominations, where officially on 26 December 2006 all political parties joined the elections of planned 22 January 2007. The date of election was scheduled 21 then 23 and finally it was rescheduled on 22 January 2007 for come to consensus. Then army chief Lt. General Moeen was involved in conspiracy to declare a state of emergency, which was made ready on 29 October 2006 following ‘Logi-Boitha’ event of previous day (28 October) and army was made stand by with one hour notice. Khaleda Zia could not understand that Moeen and his associates will betray whereas Mukhles Chowdhury was divulging generals hidden agenda where he was the only obstacle to that.
Mrs Zia was annoyed why state of emergency was obstructed. For the sake of holding elections government made many decissions visible. Presidential Adviser had been urging all political fronts not to stop election process vis a vis not to do anything that hinders elections and open way of military take over. Besides, H M Ershad’s five nominations were canceled through Lutfuzzaman Babar by Moeen in order to foil the election process what they failed to do earlier. Ironically, Khaleda Zia was trapped by that unholy alliance. This anti-state subbersive led to the declaration of state of emergency following Hasina-Ershad alliance’s u-turn from elections with en-masse withdrawal of nominations. Army Chief and his group those who were posted and promoted by Zia betrayed with her and compelled the President to declare state of emergency and rule country with their instruction for two years illegally and unconstitutionally.
Moeen group advised Zia to participate elections without Awami League and supported the formula of Hasina to go ahead with ‘Logi-Boitha’ and blockade programme to topple Iajuddin’s Caretaker Government (CTG). The group tried to create division within CTG and foiled army deployment in aid to civil power. There were three groups in army and one Aminul Karim had series of meetings with Moeen on military take over and he united the rival groups with the help of Fazlul Bari while Brig A T M Amin played major role in arresting and removing people from the government. Amin informed US diplomat that Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, who was threatened by him, was removed and Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury was removed and arrested.
There were number of attempts to assassinate Mukhles Chowdhury. Moeen and Aminul Karim had also secret meeting at Bangabhaban. Had Begum Zia understand the gravity of the situation she could allow Caretaker Government against so called State of Emergency and not to cancel Ershad’s nomination. Military group betrayed with her. It is still mysterious that why she did not receive phone calls from Presidential Advisor on 11 January 2007 when Moeen was obstructed at the gate of Bangabhaban. Even when thereafter MSP brought Moeen to his room then there had also been effort to connect with her from highest office at the part of political engagement as it was done with other top politicians and she was away. All including DGFI, SSF, 9th Infantry Division of Bangladesh Army, 46 Brigade betrayed with democracy and constitution while President’s Advisor was trying to the last for the sake of democracy and constitution. DG, NSI and Commandant, PGR was also loyal. Army had connection with Awami league and Moeen was superseded 9 senior officers in appointing army chief what was a great blunder of BNP government.