Dr. Oli Ahmad was born on 13 March 1939 in the famous ‘Kutub’ family of Chandanaish, Chittagong. His Father’s name is Late Amanat Safa & Mother’s name is Late Badrunnesa. He passed S.S.C. in 1957 from Gasbaria N G High School at Chandanaish and obtained BA degree in the year 1966 from National College, Karachi, Pakistan. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge and self-improvement is a very rare and unique feature amongst our current political leaders. Despite the time constraints and immense workload as a national leader, Oli Ahmad obtained PhD. degree from Oxford Brookes University, UK on 22 September 2003 for his thesis titled “Revolution, Military Personnel and the War of Liberation in Bangladesh”. He is a Honourary Research Fellow of Oxford Brookes University, UK.
Participated in language moment in 1952 as a student of class six of Gasbaria N.G. High School and took active part in many processions.
While studying Law he joined Pakistan Military Academy and was commissioned in the year 1965. He was posted to 4 East Bengal Regiment in 1967 and thereafter to 8 East Bengal Regiment on 24 Sept. 1970.
During the turbulent period of early 1971 Captain Oli Ahmad along with Lieutenant colonel M. R. Chowdhury and Major Ziaur Rahman planned to revolt & took preparations in the event of Pakistan Military crackdown. On 25th March 1971, at mid night Capt. Oli Ahmad was the first officer to revolt against Pakistan occupational Army after hearing that, Pakistan Army started massacre at Dhaka. He immediately organised 8 East Bengal Regiment for fighting against them under the leadership of Major Ziaur Rahman, Second-in-Command of the battalion. Infact Capt. Oli laid the foundation of Bangladesh Army through his revolution on that crucial night. Capt. Oli Ahmad was the first Quarter Master of Newly raised 8 East Bengal Regiment located at Sholoshahar, Chattogram and Maj. Ziaur Rahman was the Second-in-command. Lt. Col. M. R. Chowdhury was the chief instructor of East Bengal Regimental Centre at Chattogram Cantonment and was the Commanding Officer of Capt. Oli at 4 East Bengal Regiment.
Capt. Oli established Combined Headquarters at Fultala of Boalkhali, Chittagong on 27th March 1971 for Army, BDR, Police, Ansars and Freedom Fighters. He was given the responsibility to organize and co-ordinate the battles at greater Chittagong area. He deployed troops at Sitakunda, Chittagong University area, Chittagong port area, Chittagong Court building area, Medical College area, Chokbazar, Cox’s Bazar and Kalurghat Radio Station area under the leadership of various officers on instructions from Major Zia. Infact they started the War of Liberation in Bangladesh. He inspired Ziaur Rahman to declare Independence of Bangladesh from Kalurghat Radio Station on 27th March 1971. He is one of the founder of ‘Bangladesh Army’.
Subsequently in the ensuing period, Capt. Oli was appointed Sub-Sector Commander of Chittagong area in the month of April 1971. He was given the responsibility to fight and defend the area from Feni River to Karerhat of Chittagong and was the first sub-sector commander of liberation forces. He fought gallantly in the famous battles of Kalurghat, Mirsarai, Mastannagar, Karerhat, Tolatali, Haku, Chikanchara under Chittagong District, Ramgar under Khagrachari District and Belunia under Noakhali District.
In recognition of his bravery, he was conferred with the gallantry award “Bir Bikram” in the month of September 1971. He was the first officer to be awarded “Bir Bikram” during the liberation war. In July 1971, he was appointed first Brigade Major of the famous ‘Z-Force. The first and only Bangladeshi officer appointed as Brigade Major during the war.
He was promoted to the rank of Major in October 1972. He served as the Second-in-Command of 19 East Bengal, 9 East Bengal, 10 East Bengal and 6 East Bengal Regiment. For his outstanding service record, late President Ziaur Rahman, BU, Psc and Lt. Gen. Mir Showkat Ali, BU, Psc graded Maj. Oli Ahmad on his Annual Confidential Report as an “outstanding” officer several times and many a times in the following manner. “This officer will be an asset to Bangladesh Army”.
He was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel in September 1975. He commanded and raised 24 East Bengal Regiment at Saidpur. Thereafter he was posted to Army Head Quarters as a General Staff Officer-1 (Operation). His subsequent postings were to the Office of the Chief of Army Staff and DCMLA and later to the Office of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, CMLA and President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in January 1980. He played an important role for controlling nineteen coup-de-tats that took place during the period from 1975 to 1977 and made great contribution in restoring peace and stability in the country. A long associate and as a trusted friend of President Ziaur Rahman, he organized a political party by remaining behind the scene while serving at President’s House. Lateron the party was renamed as BNP on his advice.
Col. Oli Ahmad resigned from service in November 1979 while he had 13 more years to serve in the Bangladesh Army. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in the first week of January 1980. His resignation was excepted and voluntarily retired from service on 10th January 1980 to start his political career. He worked hard to organise BNP throughout the country and was one of the founders of the party, although formally he joined Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the month of February 1980. At the beginning of his political career, Dr. Oli Ahmad was appointed as State Minister in charge of Ministry of Youth Development in February 1982 where he continued till Martial Law was imposed by Lt. Gen. H. M. Ershad.
Most of the senior leaders of BNP joined military dictator Lt. Gen. H. M. Ershad in 1982 after Martial Law. But Dr. Oli Ahmad could not be purchased or coerced into submission. He was the most trusted friend of Begum Zia and Zia’s family. He maintained his principle throughout his political career and was imprisoned twice for political protest during the autocratic rule of Ershad. Third time he was imprisoned from 16th May to 28th May 2012 by Awami League for political protest.
Dr. Oli was elected as a Member of Parliament for the first time in March 1980, second time on 27 February 1991, third time on 15 February 1996, fourth time on 12 June 1996, fifth time on 01 October 2001 and sixth time on 29 December 2008.
Dr. Oli Ahmad consistently upholds his moral stance through out his political career. He never surrenders before any pressure or to any body’s unfair demands. He helped Begum Khaleda Zia to gain control of BNP after the death of President Ziaur Rahman on 30th May 1981. During nine years long struggle against the autocratic ruler General H. M. Earshad, Dr. Oli’s hard work and sincerity helped him to establish himself as one of the leading political figures in BNP. Dr. Oli Ahmad was inducted into the Standing Committee in 1984, highest policy-making body of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). He also played a very important role to reorganise BNP and maintain unity among the rank and file (especially after the desertion of most of the senior leaders of the party) which paved the way for BNP to win Parliamentary Election in 1991.
Dr. Oli Ahmad was appointed as Cabinet Minister on 20 March 1991 and given the port folio of the Ministry of Communications and held the same port folio till March 1996. He brought new reforms in Bangladesh Railway, BRTC, BRTA and road construction. Some of the organisations were on the verge of financial bankruptcy (with tremendous pressure and objections from international donor agencies about the performance of the Ministry of Communication). However, at the end of his tenure these organisations were not only made profitable and efficient but also their services expanded. As an administrator, Dr. Oli Ahmad has always displayed visionary and pragmatic ideas. As the Minister for Communications he performed excellently. Infact, he laid the foundation of modern road network and constructed many big bridges through out the country including construction work of Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge which was started and 60% work completed during his tenure).
He was sworn in and given the port folio of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Food and Ministry of Water Development Resources in the new cabinet formed in the last week of February 1996. But it was changed on the next day and was appointed as Minister for Energy, Gas and Mineral Resources where he continued till the resignation of BNP government on 30 March 1996. During this short period he improved the performance of Power Development Board and increased their production capacity by 130 MW.
He was the chief coordinator of relief, rehabilitation and disaster management for greater Chittagong and Chittagong Hill-tracts immediately after the devastating cyclone and tidal waves of 29 April 1991. First ten days were the most crucial period for rehabilitation and bringing normalcy in the affected coastal areas and Chittagong town. On the night of 30th April he physically guarded Chittagong port & railway stores till the arrival of army and police contingent with his security guards. Despite the fact that all communication networks, public services and amenities were disrupted, with no food supply and drinking water readily available. Approximately One Hundred Fifty Thousand people died. The total population affected was approximately fifty Lakhs and half of them were homeless. None was available even to bury the dead bodies. He deployed Ansars and village defense party for the burial. He worked day & night to restore normal life along with all Govt. and semi-Govt. officials posted at Chittagong. He involved all M.P.’s, Chairman’s, other elected representatives and eloquent people of the society for distribution of relief and rehabilitation among the affected people. He controlled the situation and brought almost normalcy within 7 days. Thereafter a few Ministers and officials were sent from Dhaka to help in the distribution of relief materials in different Upazilas and Thanas. His works were greatly appreciated at home and abroad. Foreign help came only after restoring normalcy in the affected areas.
As Minster for Communication, Dr. Ahmad led the Bangladeshi delegation to attend The XIX World Congress held in Marrakesh, Morocco in September 1991. Bangladesh was one of the six countries to address the plenary session, where Dr. Oli Ahmad in his keynote speech highlighted the ambitious programme undertaken by the Government of Bangladesh for the construction of roads & improvement in road transport sector with particular emphasis on construction of highways and related infrastructure. Belgium, France and U.S.A. were among the other countries which participated in the plenary session.
Dr. Oli Ahmad visited Turkey on an invitation from his Turkish counterpart during April- May 1992, where he intensively visited various important installations including those of railway and transportation sector. During the visit he also had a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey.
As Communication Minister, he participated in a conference held in Bangkok on ‘Transport and Communications Decade for Asia and the Pacific’ during June 3 – 5, 1992. Ministers from different Asian Countries responsible for transport and communications attended the conference. It was sponsored by ESCAP and Dr. Ahmad was elected as Chairman of Plenary Session.
Dr. Oli Ahmad visited Mexico from 21 Nov. – 3 Dec. 1992. He was invited by the Mexican government to attend an international seminar on “25 years of Road Developments: Prospects and Problems”, where he addressed the inaugural session as the Guest of Honour.
On an invitation from the Honorable Minister of Communication of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Oli Ahmad visited Saudi Arabia from 11 to 16 November 1993. During the visit he met the Chief of Saudi Fund for Development in Riyadh, the Minister of Finance and the President of Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah. He arranged 25 Million Saudi Rial as grant for the rehabilitation of Bangladesh Railways.