Khaleda Zia was born to Iskandar Majumder, a businessman, and Taiyaba Majumder at Dinajpur in 1945. Third among three sisters and two brothers, she passed the matriculation examinations in 1960 from the Dinajpur Government School and got enrolled in the Surendranath College, Dinajpur
The same year, she got married to Ziaur Rahman of Bogra, then a captain in the Pakistan Army. Her husband, one of the prominent heroes of the country’s Liberation War, later became the president of Bangladesh and formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Khaleda continued her studies until 1965 when she went to join her husband in West Pakistan.
Until the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman in an abortive military putsch in Chittagong on May 30, 1981, Khaleda Zia had taken little interest in either politics or public life. Even when her husband was propelled to power after the political changes in 1975, she remained a shy and withdrawn housewife who devoted most of her time rearing up her two sons.
In March 1983, Justice Abdus Sattar, the then acting president and chairman BNP, appointed Khaleda Zia a vice-chairman of the BNP. On February 1984, she became the chairperson as Justice Sattar retired from politics. On August 10 the same year, the party elected her the chairperson.
Khaleda was detained seven times during almost nine years of autocratic rule of Hosain Ershad. In the face of mass upsurge spearheaded by the seven-party alliance, led by Khaleda, and the eight-party combine, led by Ershad resigned on December 6, 1990 and handed over power to neutral caretaker government, bringing an end to his nine-year autocratic rule.
In 1991, she became the country’s first woman prime minister after a free and fair general election on February 27, 1991 and formed the government.
She became prime minister for the second consecutive term after the BNP had emerged landslide victors in the February 15, 1996 general election to the sixth Jatiya Sangsad. She has been elected as a member of the Parliament from the constituencies Bogra-7.
In the June 12, 1996 parliamentary elections, the BNP lost to the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina but emerged as the largest opposition party in the country parliamentary history with 116 seats.
When in power, the government of Khaleda made considerable progress in the education sector, introducing compulsory free primary education, free education of girls up to class ten, stipend for the girl students and food for education programme. It also increased the age-limit for entry to government services from 27 years to 30 years and provided highest budgetary allocation in the education sector.
Aiming to return to power, the BNP formed a four-party opposition alliance on January 6, 1999 with the Jatiya Party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Oikya Jote and launched several agitation programmes against the ruling AL.
The alliance then participated in the October 1 general election and won the polls with two-thirds majority. Khaleda Zia has been elected as a Member of the Parliament from 2 constituencies of Bogra 6 and 7. On October 10, 2001 Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of BNP, was sworn as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, after an election in which a surprising 75 percent of the registered voters went to the polls. She swept to victory with a campaign against lawlessness and corruption, but it was her Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s disciplined alliance with two Islamic parties and another small faction that ensured the coalition’s a two-third majority in the new Parliament. “My government’s first priority will be to eliminate terrorism and stamp out corruption,” she said after the ceremony. “We will also try to ensure economic emancipation for the vast majority.”
Khaleda Zia is arguably the most powerful and corrupted prime minister ever been elected in Bangladesh’s thirty years history. She is the first prime minister to hold the office three times, took the oath on 10th October 2001.