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Born Jan. 19, 1936, in Bogra; died May 30, 1981, in Chittagong. Bangladesh state and military figure. Major general (1973).
Zia received an advanced military education and served in the Pakistani Army from 1953 to March 1971. On Mar. 26, 1971, in a radio broadcast from Chittagong, Zia called on the people of Bangladesh to rise up in an armed struggle for independence; he played a major role in the ensuing battle. After the sovereign state of Bangladesh was formed in 1971, he helped organize the national army. He was appointed deputy chief of staff of the army in 1972 and was named chief of staff in August 1975. In November 1975 he was named a member of a council of ministers as one of three deputies to the president of Bangladesh. At the same time he headed the ministries of information and broadcasting, finance, and home affairs. In November 1976 he was appointed chief martial law administrator. After A. M. Sayem retired in April 1977, Zia became president of Bangladesh, retaining his powers as chief martial law administrator, chief of staff of the army, and minister of finance and home affairs. He was elected president in the national election of 1978 and headed the cabinet until April 1979. He also headed the planning commission, the presidential secretariat, and the board on science and techhnology and held power as commander of the country’s armed forces.