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Former Bangladesh military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad, who served as president from 1983 to 1990, died on Sunday at the age of 89 years, an aide said.

Ershad’s deputy press secretary Khandakar Delower Jalali told EFE that the ex general died in the morning at Dhaka Combined Military Hospital.

The soldier-turned-politician passed away due to old-age health conditions as he was suffering from low hemoglobin count and multiple liver, lung and kidney complications, Jalali said.

The former army chief, who was heading the opposition Jatiya Party, will be buried at the army graveyard in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Ershad was one of the most controversial characters in Bangladesh politics of the post liberation era.

He seized power as the Chief Martial Law Administrator from an elected president, Abdus Sattar, in a bloodless coup on Mar. 24, 1982.

The military ruler went on to serve as Bangladesh president from 1983 to 1990 after he held a referendum in 1985 followed by two controversial elections in 1986 and 1988.

Ershad, who controversially introduced Islam as the state religion of the secular but Muslim-majority South Asian nation during his rule, was ousted from power after the December 1990 pro-democracy uprising led by then opposition leaders Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.

Out of power, Ershad was jailed for years on corruption charges before being released on bail in 1997.

A prolific poet, the former head of the country's armed forces remained one of the significant factors in Bangladeshi politics until his death.

After being released from prison, Ershad got rehabilitated in the national politics mainly due to rivalry between the Awami League, led by incumbent Prime Minister Hasina, and her bitter foe Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Ershad was one of Bangladesh's major kingmakers in the 1990s after his Jatiya Party emerged as the country's third biggest political outfit. Both Hasina and Zia tried to get his support to assume power.

The former general remained a popular politician and was elected to parliament five times. He was the leader of opposition in the current parliament.

His critics denounced him as an “unpredictable”, “autocrat” for his dictatorial regime.

But Ershad’s followers remember his as “pallibandhu” (friend of villagers) because he was the brain behind decentralizing civil administrations and introducing local administrative regions and initiating several developmental activities in the impoverished country.

Ershad is survived by his widow Raushan Ershad and two sons born to two wives. EFE-EPA

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