By: Afrasiab Mehdi (High Commissioner of Pakistan to Bangladesh, 2011-2014)
Former President of Bangladesh Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad passed away in Dhaka on (14 July 2019). He served as the 11th President of Bangladesh from 1983 to 1990. Hussain Muhammad Ershad was a friend of Pakistan. He tried to improve and strengthen relations with Islamabad. In this regard, he undertook an official visit to Pakistan in early 1986.
His positive attitude towards Pakistan was never to the liking of India. Consequently, New Delhi tried to create serious problems for Bangladesh during his tenure as President. Nevertheless Ershad did succeed to some extent, in liberating Bangladesh from the strong influence of Hindu India. Not many people are aware of the fact that as President of Bangladesh, he made a special request to President Zia ul Haq of Pakistan, for military assistance. Responding positively, President Zia ul Haq gifted 46 aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force to the Bangladesh Airforce. Ershad stated that Bangladesh will arrange shipment of the aircraft from Karachi to Chittagong. President Zia told Ershad, “ Bangladesh is our Muslim brother country.
These fighter aircraft are a small gift from Muslim Pakistan to Muslim Bangladesh. As such, with no cost to Bangladesh, the vessels of the Pakistan Navy will transport all the aircraft to Chittagong.” The task was completed without any delay, and without publicity; and the 46 fighter aircraft of the Pakistan Airforce were formally inducted into the Bangladesh Airforce. During President Ershad’s time, Pakistan also helped Dhaka raise an Armour Division of the Bangladesh Army.
Before the establishment of Bangladesh, Hussain Muhammad Ershad served with distinction in the Pakistan Army which he joined in 1952. A decorated soldier, Ershad graduated from the Staff College, Quetta in 1966. As an officer of the Pakistan Army, he was also involved in operations against India. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan must remember its friends. May God bless his soul.