SAARC leaders paid rich tributes to President Ziaur Rahman for his statesmanship in launching and pursuing the idea of SAARC, reports UNB.
"The vision of President Ziaur Rahman helped move forward the idea of SAARC and it is only appropriate that we honour his memory at this Summit with the first SAARC Award," said Indian Premier Dr Manmohan Singh.
"We are happy to see that as SAARC celebrates its 20th anniversary, the organisation has returned to the city of its birth for rejuvenation. The spirit of Dhaka will lend our enterprise greater vigour and dynamism. We pay tribute to the inspiring vision of late President Ziaur Rahman who initiated the SAARC idea and emphasised that regional cooperation was essential for peace and progress of South Asia," said Pakistani Premier Shaukat Aziz.
"As we assemble in the capital that witnessed the birth of SAARC, it is only appropriate that we begin by paying tribute to the late President, who is unanimously recognised as the Founder of the Association. It is our privilege to bestow on the late President Ziaur Rahman posthumously, the first ever SAARC Award," said Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
"In commemorating 20 years of SAARC, it is fitting that we pay tribute to the memory of President Ziaur Rahman, whose vision and initiative led to the formation of our Association. By conferring the SAARC Award 2004 on him, we reaffirm our faith in the destiny of a vibrant, prosperous and united South Asia," said Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup.
Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said, "It was a highly inspirational concept proposed by a fine statesman from this land. We salute the foresight and wisdom of late President Ziaur Rahman in leading the creation of a formal structure for regional cooperation. Thus, it was most befitting to witness a few minutes ago the posthumous conferment of the first SAARC Award upon this great leader."
"It is our great honour and privilege to confer the 1st SAARC Award on late President Ziaur Rahman in appreciation of his outstanding contribution to SAARC and its ideals, despite an inhospitable international climate that prevailed in those formative years," said Nepal King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev.