Irrespective of religion, cast and creed, thousands of people from across the social spectrum thronged Bangabhaban on Thursday afternoon to pay tributes to late President Zillur Rahman.
Some came at Bangabhaban wearing lungi, while some barefoot. People ranging from seven-year-old boys to 70-year-old men, rickshaw pullers to footpath shopkeepers to millionaire businessmen — all flocked to Bangabhaban to pay their last respects to the veteran politician.
Also visiting the President’s house were the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and foreign diplomats, apart from a host of other dignitaries.
Zillur breathed his last at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore on Wednesday afternoon after fighting for life for 11 days. He was a close associate and family friend of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu, and one of the organisers of the country’s Liberation War.
A special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the President’s mortal remains landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 12pm. Later, acting President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina placed wreaths on the coffin of the President kept on a dais at the airport.
Guarded by a motorcade, a car wrapped in the national flag and decorated with red and white flowers carried the coffin to Bangabhaban from the airport around 1pm.
The motorcade travelled through Airport Road, Mohakhali, Bijoy Sarani, Farmgate, Banglamotor, Minto Road, Matsha Bhaban, High Court, Abdul Gani Road and Bangabandhu Stadium to reach Bangabhaban at 1:04pm.
People stood on both sides of the road to get a quick glimpse of their beloved leader. Many were seen carrying placards with mourning messages and waving black flags.
At Bangabhaban, Zillur’s body was placed on an elevated stage at the northern side of the presidential palace and a smart group of armed forces personnel gave him a military salute. The coffin was wrapped in a national flag.
Acting President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina again laid wreaths on the President’s coffin there.
Later, the coffin was brought to the Darbar Hall of the presidential palace where BNP Chairperson and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, Chief Justice Muzammel Hossain, former President HM Ershad, Cabinet members, politicians, freedom fighters, diplomats and various government and army officials paid their homage to the President by laying wreaths on his coffin.
The main entrance of Bangabhaban was opened for all around 2pm.
Since there was no tight security restrictions, people from all walks of life standing in a long queue paid their homage to the late versatile leader.
Many of them brought flowers in hands while many others appeared with either wreaths or mourning banners with gloomy faces.
Though people get opportunity to meet the President at Bangabhaban on the occasion of major religious festivals, opening the presidential palace for all is a rare incident. Many became emotional on getting a quick glimpse of their beloved leader.
Javed Ali, a rickshaw puller, told bdnews24.com, “It’s a great achievement in my life that I have paid respect to the President. It’s doubtful whether I would have got a chance to enter the Bangabhaban ever. May Allah grant him a high place in the heaven.”
An employee of the Bangabhaban, Jasim Uddin said, “I have seen very few people with such a great personality in my life. He used ask us about our lives.”
Nurul Islam who is a small cloth trader said, “It’ll remain as a memorable moment in my life that I got the chance to have a glimpse of a great man…for the last time.”
After laying wreath, along with the party chief, on the coffin of the President, BNP spokesman and Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters, “Our Chairperson has paid her respects. She said that an experienced and prominent politician has passed away. This vacuum in the country’s political arena cannot be filled easily.”
Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad said, “The nation has lost its true guardian with the demise of President Zillur Rahman.”
President of the Communist Party of Bangladesh Mujahidul Islam Salim said, “I’m deeply shocked. A big vacuum has been created by his demise.”
Referring to his personal relations with Zillur Rahman, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W Mozena said, “The demise of the most elderly politician is an irreparable loss to the country. I’ve also lost a guardian.”
Abdus Sobhan, a retired government official, who came to pay his respects to the late President, said, “I seek salvation for the departed soul and pray to the Almighty Allah so that He blesses him with heaven (eternal peace).”
Leaders and activists of different social, cultural and professional organisations also attended the mourning ceremony holding banners.
The President’s mortal remains was taken to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) mortuary after 5pm for overnight stay.
His first namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) will be held in Asmat Ali College ground in his birthplace Bhairab upazila of Kishoreganj district at 9am on Friday. The locals will pay their tribute to the veteran politician there.
Then the body would be brought to the National Eidgah ground for the second janaza at 2:30pm after the Juma prayers.
The third janaza will be held at the South Plaza of the parliament complex at 3:30pm the same day from where it would be taken to his private residence, Ivy Tower, at Gulshan for a while ahead of his burial at the Banani graveyard.
Zillur will be laid to eternal rest beside the grave of his wife Ivy Rahman in the Banani graveyard at 5pm.