Mohammad Shahabuddin takes oath as Bangladesh’s new president

Dhaka: Veteran politician Mohammed Shahabuddin was sworn in as the 22nd president of Bangladesh on Monday at a state ceremony attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her cabinet colleagues.

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury administered the oath to 73-year-old Shahabuddin at the historic Durbar Hall of Bangabhaban. Besides premier Hasina and family members of the new president, politicians, Supreme Court judges, and senior civil and military officials attended the event.

Shahabuddin succeeds Abdul Hamid whose tenure ended on Sunday. After the swearing-in ceremony, Shahabuddin signed the oath documents for the office of the president.

He was elected as president unopposed in February this year as a candidate of the ruling Awami League.

Despite being largely ornamental head of the state, the office of the president draws extra attention particularly during the general elections as he appoints the prime minister and becomes the constitutional guardian of the country.

Bangladesh is set for general elections in December or in January next year, amid growing diferences between the ruling Awami League and its main opposition the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)  over the electoral system.

In a media interview last week, Shahabuddin, a lower court judge, said it was largely the responsibility of the Election Commission to create the atmosphere to encourage voters to cast their votes and expected the independent constitutional body to play its due role.

He said, after assuming his office, he would review the political situation and assess if he needed to play any role in minimising disputes between the political parties.

Born in 1949 and hailing from the northwestern Pabna district, Shahabuddin is a retired district judge who later served as one of the commissioners of the independent Anti-Corruption Commission.

He later joined politics and became a member of the Awami League Advisory Council, which comprises senior party leaders and technocrats, but his election to the highest office would require him to relinquish the party post.

In his early life, Shahabuddin was a leader of the Awami League’s student and youth wings and took part in the 1971 Liberation War.

He was imprisoned following the 1975 assassination of  Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Prime Minister Hasina. In 1982, he was inducted into the country’s judicial service.

Shahabuddin’s wife Rebeka Sultana is the former joint secretary of the government. The couple has one son.