Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (also Sheikh Mujib; March 17, 1920 - August 15, 1975) was a Bengali nationalist leader in East Pakistan and first Prime Minister and President of independent Bangladesh. His political career began almost immediately with Pakistan's independence, as founder of the East Pakistan Muslim Students' League and later the Awami League in the 1950s. Both these groups sought to gain greater autonomy for East Pakistan, which was dominated by West Pakistan, though the two were separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, and the eastern region had a distinct culture and language of its own.
By 1970, the Awami League won all but two of the 162 seats allocated to East Pakistan in the Pakistani National Assembly. Using this as a power base, Sheikh Mujib rallied for greater autonomy for East Pakistan and the transformation of Pakistan into a federal state consisting of two largely autonomous regions: East and West. When these efforts failed, while the crisis between the two parts of the country was exacerbated by attempts by Pakistan to proclaim Urdu as the country's sole official language--most people in East Pakistan spoke Bengali. In response to these encroachements on the rights of people in East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib called for a campaign of noncooperation to force the government. Pakistan declared martial law, and a civil war erupted, with East Pakistan gaining support from India. Sheikh Mujib was arrested, but many of his supporters managed to escape to India, where they declared a provisional government for an independent in East Pakistan. By December 1971, West Pakistan troops in East finally surrendered, and the independent state of Bangladesh was declared. In January 12, 1972, Sheikh Mujib became the country's leader.
By that time, the country was in a shambles, the result of a nine-month war for independence and reported atrocities, sometimes described as genocidal, by the West Pakistani forces in the country. Sheikh Mujib attempted to remedy the situation by ruling through executive decree. As the situation became worse, Sheikh Mujib declared a state of emergency, declaring himself president and disbanding all political parties except for the newly formed Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL). Nevertheless, change was slow in coming, and hunger and disease were rampant.
On August 15, 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and several members of his family were killed in a military coup. He was replaced by his former minister of commerce and of land revenue Khandekar Moshtaque Ahmed. In 1996, Sheikh Mujib's daughter, Hasina Wazed, was elected prime minister of Bangladesh.