Tajuddin Ahmad (Bengali: তাজউদ্দীন আহমদ; 23 July 1925 – 3 November 1975) was a Bangladeshi statesman and freedom fighter. He served as the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh and lead the wartime Provisional Government during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Ahmad is regarded as one of the most influential and instrumental figures in the birth of Bangladesh, due to his leadership of the provisional government in 1971, in which he united the various political, military and cultural forces of Bangladeshi nationalism.
A close confidante of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ahmad was the General Secretary of the Awami League in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He coordinated the League’s election campaign for the Pakistani general election, 1970, in which the League gained a historic parliamentary majority to form government. Ahmad, along with Mujib and Dr. Kamal Hossain, led negotiations with President Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the transfer of power to the elected National Assembly.
Ahmed was born at Kapasia in Gazipur on 23 July 1925 to Maulavi Muhammad Yasin Khan and Meherunnesa Khanam. He went to Saint Gregory High school. In 1944, he came 12th on the matriculation examination. In 1948, he was 4th the Higher Secondary Certificate Examination. He obtained BA with honours in economics from Dhaka University. In 1943, he joined the Muslim League. 4 January 1948 Ahmad joined East Pakistan Student League as a founding member.
He organized protests and other activities during the Language Movement of 1952. He was arrested by police and imprisoned for several months. In 1954, on a nomination from Jukta Front, he defeated the then general secretary of Muslim League to join East Pakistan Provincial assembly. He was arrested following the dismissal of the A. K. Fazlul Huq-led government. In jail, Tajuddin took the law examination and got a BA degree in law. He would be arrested again following the imposition of martial law by Ayub Khan in 1958 after taking power in a military coup. Ahmed worked in the pro-democracy campaign led by the Awami League and other political parties in Pakistan. From 1953 to 1957, he was the general secretary of Dhaka District Awami League. In 1955, Tajuddin was the social welfare and cultural secretary. In 1964, he became the organising secretary of Awami League. Tajuddin along with Sheikh Mujib, took part in the Lahore Conference of the opposition parties in 1966, and declared the six-point demand. He worked with Sheikh Mujib's in the preparing historical six-points. Pakistan police arrested him on 8 May 1966 for supporting Mujib's six-points demand. He participated at the round table conference in Rawalpindi convened by Ayub Khan to resolve the crisis between the government and the opposition parties. Following the restoration of democracy, he was elected member of the National Assembly of Pakistan in 1970.
After the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight in East Pakistan in March 1971, Ahmad made his way into neighbouring India, upon the instructions of Sheikh Mujib. The Pakistan Army arrested Sheikh Mujib himself in East Pakistan. Ahmad named the capital Mujibnagar, after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The government-in-exile came to be known as the Mujibnagar government. Along with senior Bengali political and military leaders, he formed the first Government of Bangladesh. The oath taking ceremony of the first government of Bangladesh took place on the soil of Bangladesh, in Meherpur, Kushtia on 17 April 1971. He presided over the significant Bangladesh Sector Commanders Conference 1971 that created and formed the entire Bangladesh Armed Forces under the command of General M. A. G. Osmani. As the first Prime Minister, he led efforts to organize a guerilla insurgency of Bengali civilians and armed forces and win international support. Ahmad sought the alliance of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the fight for Bangladesh's independence. The war administration subsequently moved to Calcutta as a government-in-exile. Under his premiership, the majority of Bengali bureaucrats, diplomats and military officers serving Pakistan defected to the new Government of Bangladesh.
He was a key figure in supervising and mandating war efforts; and initiated numerous diplomatic and cultural missions which toured world capitals advocating the Bangladesh cause. Ahmad would regularly visit the liberated regions of Bangladesh and inspire the Mukti Bahini and other freedom and raise moral. During this period, Ahmad encountered some intra party conflict led by Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad who conspired to harm the national struggle for independence through a failed attempt to form a confederacy with Pakistan. Among Ahmad's great diplomatic achievements were to win international support and recognition of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation by the government of India.
After the Liberation of Bangladesh, Ahmad returned to Dhaka on 22 December 1971. In the subsequent cabinet formed under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ahmad was given charge of the ministries of finance and planning. He was also appointed member of the committee in charge of writing the Constitution of Bangladesh. A rift developed between Mujib and Ahmad. They differed on a number of issues. Mujib declared a general amnesty for many war criminals and collaborators which Ahmad disagreed on. Ahmed wanted to create a militia with freedom fighters but Mujib created one with the members of the Mujib Bahini, it was the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini. Ahmad did not want to accept aid from the World Bank. He was against Mujib forming the BAKSAL. He resigned from the cabinet in 1974 and fell out with Mujib after the creation of the one-party system of BAKSAL. On April 1975, members of the government travelled to Mujibnagar to commemorate the anniversary of the forming of Mujibnagar Government. Tajuddin Ahmad was not invited, even though he played a crucial role in the formation of the Mujibnagar Government. Tajuddin remained loyal to Mujib and on July 1975, he having heard rumours of plots against Mujib rushed to warn him. Mujib did not take the threat seriously. After the Mujib assassination in August 1975, Ahmad was arrested by the martial law government. Along with four other top League leaders, he was killed by some officers of the Bangladesh Army in Dhaka Central Jail on 4 November 1975.
In 1974 Ahmad lost his cabinet post. When Mujib assumed the title of President and banned other political parties in 1975, Ahmad became the odd man out, declining and opposing the formation of a one-party system known as BAKSAL. When Mujib was assassinated by a group of army officers on 15 August 1975, Ahmad was immediately placed under house arrest. On 22 August, he was arrested with other political leaders by the regime of the new president Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed and imprisoned at the Dhaka Central Jail. On 3 November, in what became infamously known as the "Jail Killing Day", Ahmad along with Syed Nazrul Islam, A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman and Muhammad Mansur Ali were killed inside the jail by a group of army officers on the instruction of President Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed.
Tajuddin was born in a middle class conservative Muslim family. His father was Maulavi Muhammad Yasin Khan and mother Meherunnesa Khanam. He had nine siblings— three brothers and six sisters. He had four children, three daughters Sharmin Ahmad (Reepi), Simeen Hussain Rimi, Mahjabin Ahmad (Mimi) and one son Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj. After the assassination of Sheikh Mujib and the jail killings, Tajuddin's wife Syeda Zohra Tajuddin reorganized and led the Awami League from 1975 to 1981. She died on December 30th 2013. Tajuddin's son Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj was the Minister of State for Home Affairs in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's cabinet in 2009. Ahmad's second daughter Simeen Hussain was elected as a Member of Parliament from Awami League in 2012.
On 25 March 2007 a documentary on Tajuddin Ahmad was released, Tajuddin Ahmad: An Unsung Hero (directed by Tanvir Mokammel). Shahid Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College Hospital in Gazipur was named after him.