Zia was the key shadow man behind 15 AUGUST

Zia was the key shadow man behind 15 AUGUST, Says Lifschultz

National Mourning Day 15 augustNoted journalist Lawrence Lifschultz has said he believes former president Ziaur Rahman was the “key shadow man” behind the August 15, 1975 putsch. “I believe many more details about Ziaur Rahman’s involvement in the August 15th events will emerge in the future. It is my assessment at this point in time that Zia played perhaps the most crucial of all roles,” Lifschultz told BSS in an interview ahead of the National Mourning Day.

Zia had his own reasons for not leading the coup himself but “without his support, I do not believe the coup d’état could have moved forward”, he added.

“Zia was the key shadow man. Had he been against the coup he could have stopped it. Of course, it was his constitutional duty to do so.

“Ziaur Rahman is a very complicated character. We need to understand in much greater depth how he operated in the shadows during these crucial times,” said the US journalist.

He was the Bangladesh correspondent of Far Eastern Economic Review in the early 1970s. The Review later appointed him as its New Delhi-based South Asia correspondent.

Lifschultz documented the tumultuous coups and counter-coups of the 70s in Bangladesh: An Unfinished Revolution. He is also acclaimed for his reports on India-Pak relations and Bosnian issues.

Source : The Daily Star, 15th August, 2010

Realising Bangabandhu’s poverty-free Shonar Bangla

1363447672Sheikh_MujibHISTORY is at last taking its own course and putting Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, in his rightful place. Gradually, he is emerging as the only reference point of our nationhood and we must congratulate the High Court Bench for removing the confusion created by some motivated vested interest groups including, unfortunately, some academics.

The meteoric rise of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as Bangabandhu, and as the undisputed leader of the Bengalees, is indeed fascinating. We have seen the rise of many leaders in our part of the world, who were mostly from elite background. Even Moulana Bhashani, though he was from a modest socio-economic background, had a kind of charisma attached to him because of his religious leadership. The other two leaders, A.K. Fazlul Huq and Suhrawardy, certainly had elite backgrounds. Sheikh Mujub came from a rural background and yet absorbed all the leadership qualities of these three dominant leaders of Bengal. In addition, he acquired the spirit of self-sacrifice for the cause of the masses. His was an exemplary leadership style, where only people mattered. He never thought of his own or his family’s comforts. He was indeed a true hero, who never hesitated to face death with a smile; once during the Agartala Conspiracy Case in the mid-sixties and again in 1971 when he was held in captivity by the Pakistanis.

The unusual strength of his leadership was galvanised through focused attention to the people’s cause and by not bowing his head to the establishment. It is indeed rewarding for us, the beneficiaries of his sacrifices, that he helped create a Bangladesh which takes pride in its bright heritage of struggles and still strives to remain true to the inner message of those struggles. The message has been true emancipation of the masses. Thanks to his committed leadership for the creation of a secular, modern, equitable, democratic Bangladesh, we are striving hard to follow his ideals even today. His able daughter is now giving the leadership in a manner which could indeed lead us to the realisation of some of the above ideals. He engaged himself for the public cause from his early life. He went to jail when he was still a student for the cause of the mother tongue. Not only that, he also helped organise the students and the masses as well for standing firm against the autocratic rule of Pakistan elites. He helped form Bangladesh Awami league along with his peers, and finally led this party to engage in the war of liberation in 1971. He was elected to become the prime minister of Pakistan after the 1970 general election. But he was not prepared to bow down to the unethical demand of the ruling Pakistani junta to forget the essence of the six-point based election manifesto. Instead, he waged a war against the junta and asked all to join it. He was taken into custody and was being forced to yield to the pressure. A grave was dug to cow him down. But the giant of a personality, Sheikh Mujib, kept his head high and attracted global attention for freeing him from captivity after the Pakistani military forces were badly defeated by the Bengali freedom fighters with support from Indian forces. He was finally freed, and returned to Bangladesh, his dreamland, on January 10, 1972. He gave a steadfast leadership in rebuilding the country. He was able to give us a well-written constitution within a short span of time. He then gave us a five-year plan, which was a solid document for a pro-poor growth strategy, with the word equity at its heart. He was dead against inequality and initiated a number of reforms to remove it. He then started reorganising all the institutions including the central bank, Public Service Commission, the judiciary and, of course, the Parliament. Despite the global oil crisis and subsequent financial crisis, he put almost all sectors in order. The country, despite the worst food crisis in the preceding year, was poised for a leap forward in 1975. There were all the signs of a bumper crop in most areas. Then came the sudden attack from behind on the ghastly midnight of the August 15, 1975. We are still trying hard to come out of that national trauma. Had this not happened, I am sure Bangladesh would have been on a completely different trajectory of growth and development. The entire history of our country would have been differently written.  We, of course, can still learn lessons from his ideals and passion for equity-oriented growth and more inclusive development. The best way to show respect to the greatest of great Bengalees will be to follow his thoughts on more equitable development and pursue the path of realising some of those dreams through our endeavours, collective or individual. I wish to pinpoint some of his pertinent thoughts for carving out an appropriate plan of action for today’s Bangladesh. Of course, most of his relevant thoughts have been reflected in vision 2021 (e.g. the election manifesto of the ruling party). So, I will be quite brief in putting his farsighted ideas here in a nutshell.

* His struggle for independence of Bangladesh was for much more than political emancipation. Economic freedom for the masses was at the centre of his struggle. ”Our struggle will be fruitful only if we can make the living of our future citizens free from all clutches of bondage, if we can make the lives of all our people prosperous, happy and decent, and if I can reduce the burden of sorrows of our people to some extent and realise the dream I have been cherishing even if at the cost of my life (Press statement of Bangabandhu on Decanter 1, 1970).” And he never stopped dreaming of this comprehensive freedom for his people even until his last breath. One can look at his student life, his political activism during his youth, and the days of mature leadership to see his commitment for the emancipation of the poor, particularly the farmers whom he thought were the real heroes. All his life was devoted to improving the lot of these unsung heroes. Indeed, he, in a way, gave his life to implementing the most important revolutionary dream of improving the condition of the downtrodden through the unprecedented economic reforms that he initiated. The vested interest groups must have sensed the likely outcome of his reform programs and hence hit him early from behind so that those dreams could not be materialied.

* The ordinary people recognised the sincerity and commitment of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s struggle for people’s freedom right from his student days. Not even for a day was he, therefore, out of focus of pro-people politics. He even reminded his political comrades not to forget the value of the people’s trust. ”The day you will do injustice to the love and trust of the people your ‘brother’ Mujib and the party you belong to (Awami League) will be dead. And thus will end the hopes and aspirations of the emerging nation called Bangladesh’ (Bangabandhu’s speech to the newly elected legislators at Engineers Institute, February 15, 1971).” This bent of his mind was rooted long back, as one can see the reflections of it even in early days of his political career. “Do justice to the people, care for the sentiments of the people, respect the sentiments of the people, and allow them to decide (Bangabandhu’s speech at Pakistan Constituent Assembly on September 28, 1955, Karachi).”

* Back in 1956, his pro-poor interventions in Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly speak volumes about his focused attention on pro-poor development. In one of his parliamentary interventions he talked about inequality and undue taxes imposed on the poor. ”If you want to earn money you can earn outside, but when you have come as representatives of the people then you should not become rich at the expense of the poor, because it is the poor who give the taxes, it is their money; you have no right to enjoy at their expense (Bangabandhu’s speech at Pakistani Constituent Assembly on February 14, 1956 at Karachi).” This early formation of his political vision continued to grow consistently, and as a mature leader he delivered a well crafted pro-poor election manifesto based on his historic six-point agenda immediately before the 1970 general election. Ordinary people trusted his words and gave him a thumping majority. Yet, the Pakistani ruling clique did not hand over power to him. Instead, he was taken into captivity and an unjust military repression was imposed on the Bengalees. People took up arms and fought back against the occupying forces. As already noted, the Pakistani army was badly defeated and Bangabandhu was released under pressure from the global community. He came back to Bangladesh as the father of the nation and started yet another journey, that of rebuilding the war-ravaged Bangladesh. This time as well he did not forget the priority needs of the poor and the farmers. Our constitution, the first five-year plan, the budget, all bear testimony to the pro-poor stance of his life-long political commitment. On the June 7, 1972, in a historic speech, he declared: ”I will not allow the rich to become richer. The farmers, workers and the intelligentsia should now get the benefits of socialism.” And he kept his word. All his subsequent actions were geared to the needs of the productive groups of people, including the farmers. He was not against private entrepreneurs either. During the later years of his rule he was shifting gears and creating opportunities for the nascent entrepreneurs. However, the issue of social justice was always paramount to him.

* ”The wage structure in the economy has to be based on social justice. The low income employees and ordinary people must be protected against the attack of inflation” (from Bangabandhu’s pre-election speech to the nation on television and radio on October 28, 1970).

* His pro-farmer policy stance is well known to all of us. His support for jute, modern agriculture using better inputs, and bias towards the co-operative movement augured well in the face of the serious food crisis that the country was experiencing in the early seventies. And he did not deviate an inch from this commitment till his last breath.

* ”I know the people of Bangladesh. They too know me. I love them. They too love me. I never give up if I start an initiative for them.” Indeed, his life was a reflection of ceaseless adherence to this commitment. In a speech on 9 May, 1972 in Rajshahi he confided: ”You know I don’t make fake promises. What do I want? I want that my people don’t go to their beds hungry. What do I want? I want that none of my people remains unemployed.”
On January 18, 1974, he said: ”There are many workers of mine who may be in remote corners of the country going unfed, unclad. They can’t come to me. But often I go to them. I have almost a blood relationship with them. I still see them in torn shirts, with no shoes. If I cannot make them smile, I will not have peace even in my grave.” Such was the depth of his political commitment. Such were his pro-poor feelings.

We have not done much to realise his dreams. The present government, of course, has embarked on Vision 2021, which augurs well for his ideals. The proposed perspective plan, the five-year plans and, of course, this year’s national budget, provide clear hints that some of his dreams may be realised. The challenge for all of us will be to design appropriate action plans and monitoring framework so that all those plans finally get implemented. The historic opportunity provided by the political space created through a credible election should be our best bet for realising the pro-poor and equitable development dreams of Bangabandhu. This, of course, will not happen automatically. It requires political commitment at all levels, and necessary motivation among the rank and file of the bureaucracy and locally elected leaders. The media too can play a positive role by honestly criticising the wrongdoings of the government and thus help the government develop a framework of transparency and accountability. Indeed, the whole nation has to be involved in the struggle for emancipation of the masses, which Bangabandhu cherished in his heart. What could be a better moment than this August, the month of national mourning, to a take a fresh vow to work hard to achieve this lofty goal? Let’s work hard to realise his poverty-free Shonar Bangla (golden Bengal).

Author : Dr Atiur Rahman is Governor, Bangladesh Bank

Portrait of a patriot

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on March 17, 1920 at Tungipara in the then Faridpur district. Despite the fact that he was an extraordinary political leader who had spent more than twelve years in jail for articulating the legitimate grievances of his people against the then Pakistani ruling elite, he became a victim of a brutal massacre on August 15, 1975. The bullet-ridden dead body of the Father of the Nation was most dishonourably buried by the murderers at Tungipara.

BangabandhuibanglaAlthough our indebtedness to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is immense, his name had been officially proscribed for almost three decades, with the exception of those years (1996-2001) when the Awami League formed the government under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.
Bangabandhu was the saviour of Bangalees of the then East Pakistan. Yet his name has become an object of a systematic vilification and disinformation campaign for over more than thirty years. This extraordinarily charismatic leader became a victim of those reactionary and mercenary forces who had never accepted his clarion call for independence. National documents and school texts were doctored to delete or distort Bangabandhu’s central role in the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation-state.

For instance, it is alleged by the critics that Bangabandhu had no plan for having an independent Bangladesh. According to them, Bangabandhu had never declared independence. They also claim that the creation of Bangladesh was the direct result of a series of blunders and wrong decisions made by advisors of the then dictator Yahya Khan and power greedy Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Some of those critics also floated the idea that Bangabandhu did not care to ascertain what was going on in the then East Pakistan before the Pakistani military junta unleashed gruesome genocide on the night of March 25, 1971. These motivated critics also maintain that neither the Awami League nor Bangabandhu was pivotal in leading our struggle towards independence. In what follows, the main intent is to repudiate such fraudulent claims.

It needs to be underscored that no fair-minded individual can ever claim that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was beyond or above criticism. History will ultimately cast judgment on Bangabandhu’s life-long struggle and his accomplishments as a political leader. Unfortunately, most of the criticism about the Founder of Bangladesh is nothing but vilification.

The truth of the matter is that the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation-state was the direct outcome of our determination for carving an independent country out of Pakistan. Bangladesh was the outcome of Bangalees’ willingness to fight for their freedom and independence. It is a documented fact that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman provided the much needed charismatic leadership for our glorious struggle for emancipation and independence.

Bangabandhu’s name is synonymous with Bangalees’ struggle for independence. Even a quisling of Ghulam Azam’s stature can hardly question Bangabandhu’s pivotal contribution towards Bangladesh’s independence. The White Paper on East Pakistan Crisis, which was prepared by the Pakistani military regime during Pakistan’s genocidal war in 1971, had clearly pinpointed that Bangabandhu had refused to compromise on the six-point program during the political negotiations in March 1971. It was also emphasised that Bangabandhu was in total control of the non-cooperation movement that was launched after March 7, 1971.

In his book, The Last Days of United Pakistan, Dr. G.W. Chowdhury (now deceased), a die-hard proponent of pre-1971 Pakistan, verified that Bangabandhu consistently refused to compromise his demands for full autonomy based on the six-point program. Recently published books written by numerous Pakistani scholars and civil servants clearly recognised that it was Bangabandhu who had adamantly refused to compromise his six-point program after the general elections of 1970.

In their recently published memoirs, Abdullah Niazi and Rao Forman Ali vehemently criticised Bangabandhu for his uncompromising stand on his six-point program. A host of outstanding British and American scholars and journalists fully recognised the pivotal role of Bangabandhu’s charismatic leadership in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence.Although some celebrated Bangladeshi political scientists are very critical about Bangabandhu’s performance as the head of the government in Bangladesh (1972-’75), there is near unanimity among them about Bangabandhu’s monumental role in uniting all Bangalees at a critical juncture of our history for waging and sustaining an armed liberation struggle.

It is preposterous to claim that Bangabandhu did not know what was going on in the then East Pakistan before and during March 1971. If Bangabandhu was unaware of the political development in then eastern province of Pakistan then who knew what was going on in there March 1971?

It seems that these Bangabandhu-bashers allude to the idea that the Jamaati leader Ghulam Azam, Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Nurul Amin, Hamidul Hoque Chowdhury and Mahmud Ali, and the Muslim League leaders Khan A. Sabur Khan, Khwaja Khairuddin and Fazlul Quader Chowdhury were the real defenders of Bangalees’ legitimate rights in 1971, even though the entire world knew that those certified pro-Pakistani quislings had systematically tormented and persecuted the Bangalees during our liberation war. It is unfortunate that many of those anti-liberation forces claim that the collaborators of the Pakistani regime were the true patriots of Bangladesh!

In view of this, no pro-Jamaati elements of Bangladesh, or Pakistani collaborators or sympathisers of Pakistani war criminals, are in a credible position to verify who had supported or fought for our liberation. Or for that matter, the admirers of military dictators or the supporters of the Jamaat or other rightist parties are not the credible persons to attest to the role of the Awami League or Bangabandhu in the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation.The struggle for our freedom did not start all of a sudden on the black night of March 25, 1971. It is totally false to allude to the idea that the restive Bangalees of the then East Pakistan were waiting for a call from an unknown major of the Pakistan army to wage a liberation war. The objective reality was that the actual fighting for our liberation had already started in many places of Bangladesh immediately after Pakistani military forces started the genocidal attack on our people on the black night of March 25, 1971.

The restive Bengali-speaking people of then East Pakistan were ready to resist the Pakistani occupation forces, and they heard what Bangabandhu had to say in his historic speech on the tumultuous seventh day of March in 1971: “The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation. The struggle this time is the struggle for our independence.” Indeed, Bangladesh’s struggle for freedom and independence was in the making for a long time.

The emergence of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971 was the culmination of a long struggle of our people. The malicious propaganda against Bangabandhu and the selective distortions of our political history are at sharp variance with most of the universally accepted facts. Bangabandhu is not only part and parcel of our political history but was also the maker of that glorious and robust history.

It was the dynamic and charismatic leadership of Bangabandhu that led us through the historic six-point movement in 1966. By mid-1960s, it was crystal clear to the Bengali-speaking people of the then Pakistan that the Awami League and its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were the true instruments and expressions of articulating their genuine demands and grievances. It was the Awami League under the inspiring leadership of Bangabandhu that had earned the electoral mandate in the general elections in 1970 from an extraordinary majority of Bangalees of the then East Pakistan.

In fact, after December 1970 general elections, especially after March 1, 1971, Bangabandhu had undeniably symbolised the entire Bangalee population of the then eastern wing of Pakistan even though he was the President of the Awami League. Although our liberation war was a people’s war by any definition, the Awami League led our Muktijuddha. It was the top Awami League leadership which had legitimately formed the Bangladesh government-in- exile.

Our liberation war was fought in Bangabandhu’s name. In the absence of Bangabandhu during our liberation war, it was Tajuddin Ahmed, the dynamic prime minister of the Bangladesh government-in-exile, who had successfully led our Muktijuddha. It was Bangabandhu’s inspiration and Tajuddin Ahmed’s competent leadership that led us to our decisive victory over the brutish Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971. These are independently verified and fully validated historical facts.

No amount of distortions can change the fundamental fact that it was Bangabandhu who had first formally declared independence for Bangladesh on March 26 (immediately after midnight of March 25, 1971). The original Constitution of the Republic and all other relevant documents have affirmed that Declaration of Independence. Doubtless, there were very capable leaders in the caliber of Tajuddin Ahmed and Dr. Kamal Hossain in the then Awami League. There were many dedicated political leaders in the Awami League both before and during our liberation war. Yet it was Bangabandhu who was the unifier of all Bangalees of the then East Pakistan in 1971. It was Bangandhu alone who was the sole spokesman of the entire Bangalee people of the then East Pakistan. It was Bangabandhu’s inspiring speech of March 7, 1971 speech that lit the torch of freedom for his people from the subjugation of the oppressive and repressive occupation forces of Pakistan.

The coup d-etat of August 15, 1975, in which Bangabandhu was brutally murdered and his elected government overthrown along, with the subsequent political developments in Bangladesh were not as surprising as they seemed to the outside world. The assassination of the Father of the Nation along with his family members was one of the cruelest political murders in human history. This ghastly killing and its aftermath, littered with illegal seizures of state powers through coups, blackmails, and counter-coups, have been characterised by some observers of Bangladesh politics as the direct result of the manner in which politics and administration of the new nation were managed.

There is no doubt that the perceived failure of his leadership in the post-liberation period can be linked to numerous causal factors. We are often allured to the idea that Bangabandhu “lost out’ partly because the situation in the early years of independent Bangladesh was so desperate but mainly because he failed to translate his charisma and tremendous popularity into an efficient and effective government.

Yet if we look back, it is fair to suggest that Bangabandhu’s accomplishments as the head of the government of a newly established country were of monumental proportions. Despite the seething criticisms of his elected regime of only three and a half years, Bangabandhu has remained synonymous with Bangalees’ relentless struggle for freedom and independence.

Aimed at banishing the Founding Father from the pages of our history and the memories of our people, deliberate attempts were made by various regimes (Mustaque-Zia-Ershad-Khaleda) during the post-1975 era. Yet Bangabandhu’s pivotal role in the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation-state couldn’t be washed away from the memories of his people. Notwithstanding the alleged mismanagement of the economy and administrative machinery in early years of our independence, the role of Bangabandhu in igniting our struggle for freedom and independence can never be marginalized. Bangabandhu’s name has remained enshrined and engraved in the minds of our people as the emancipator and saviour of the Bangalees. The immortal name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the legacy of his extraordinary accomplishments will live through ages.

Dr. M. Waheeduzzaman (Manik) writes from the city of Clarksville, Tennessee, USA where he is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Public Management and Criminal Justice at Austin Peay State University.

Author – M. Waheeduzzaman Manik

Mujib’s Secret Trial : TIME (23-08-71)

Mujib’s Secret Trial

Mujib’s Secret Trial

“Our people will react violently to this,” a member of the Bengali liberation underground whispered to TIME Correspondent David Greenway in Dacca last week. The warning proved all too true. Sheik Mujibur (“Mujib”) Rahman, 51, fiery leader of East Pakistan and the man who may hold the key to ending the bloody five-month-old civil war, had just gone on trial for his life before a secret military court in West Pakistan, more than 1,500 miles away. Late that same afternoon, a bomb exploded in the lobby of Dacca’s Intercontinental Hotel.

Flash and Roar. Correspondent Greenway, who suffered a concussion in the blast, cabled: “I was standing in front of the cigar store in the lobby when, with a flash and a roar, the wall a few feet in front of me seemed to buckle and dissolve. I was flung to the floor. That was fortunate, because great chunks of bricks and concrete flew over me, crashing through the lobby and blowing men and furniture through the plate-glass windows onto the sidewalk.

“Part of an air duct came down on my head and I could not move. There was thick, choking smoke and water spewing from broken pipes. Soon the smoke began to clear. People milled about the crumpled, crying victims lying bleeding on the lawn. None, luckily, was dead. One girl, an employee of the hotel, had been completely buried under three feet of rubble. When they dug her out, all she could say was: ‘I knew I should not have come to work today.’ ”

The timing of the bombing tends to confirm that Mujib’s trial will further stiffen Bengali resistance to the occupying West Pakistani army. If there are any chances of a political settlement —and they seem almost nonexistent—imposition of the death penalty could dash them.

Strict Secrecy. Mujib’s political role and his astonishing popularity in East Pakistan in a sense precipitated the civil war (TIME cover, Aug. 2). In last December’s elections for a constitutional assembly, his Awami League won an overwhelming 167 of 169 seats in the East. That was enough to guarantee Mujib a majority in the 313-seat national assembly, and ensured that he would have become Prime Minister of Pakistan. It was also enough to alarm President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan and the West Pakistani establishment, which has run the geographically divided country since its partition from India in 1947.

Yahya and Co. feared that Mujib’s ascendancy would mean far greater autonomy for the long-exploited East Pakistanis, and the Pakistani army ruthlessly moved to crush the Bengali movement. There is little doubt that Mujib will be convicted of the undefined charges of “waging war against Pakistan and other offenses.” When he was arrested last March 26, hours after the army crackdown, Yahya publicly branded him a traitor and hinted that he “might not live.” Observed one Western diplomat last week: “You know how hot the Punjabi plains are this time of year. You might say Mujib has a snowball’s chance of acquittal.”

Though everything about the trial is shrouded in secrecy, it was learned last week that the proceedings are being held in a new, one-story red-brick jail in the textile city of Lyallpur, 150 miles south of Rawalpindi. Islamabad sources claim that the strict secrecy is necessary to prevent Bengali rebels from trying to rescue Mujib. More likely it is because Yahya is unwilling to give Mujib a public platform. When the sheik was tried in 1968, also on charges of treason stemming from his demands for East Pakistan’s autonomy, the trial was aborted amid widespread antigovernment protests. But not before Mujib’s British lawyer managed to make the government “look utterly silly,” as one diplomat recalled.

Second Home. A man of vitality and vehemence, Mujib became the political Gandhi of the Bengalis, symbolizing their hopes and voicing their grievances. Not even Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, drew the million-strong throngs that Mujib has twice attracted in Dacca. Nor, for that matter, has any subcontinent politician since Gandhi’s day spent so much time behind bars for his political beliefs—a little over ten years. “Prison is my other home,” he once said.

If Mujib’s courage and bluntness got him into trouble frequently in the past, at least his family was spared. Now that is not so sure. Last week Mujib’s brother, a businessman named Sheik Abu Nasser, turned up in New Delhi with only the tattered clothes on his back. Nasser told how Mujib’s aged parents (his father is 95, his mother 80) were driven from their home by Pakistani troops. Their house was burned, their servants shot and they have not been heard from since. Nasser did not know whether his wife and six children were dead or alive. He had hoped, he said, that Senator Edward Kennedy, who last week visited India’s refugee camps on a fact-finding mission as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Refugees, might be able to learn their whereabouts. But the Pakistani government refused Kennedy permission to visit either East or West Pakistan. Kennedy, who trudged through mud and drenching rains, was greeted by refugees carrying hand-painted placards,


He and an M.I.T. nutrition expert with him noted the appalling effects of malnutrition on the children, many already blind from vitamin A deficiencies, others irrevocably mentally retarded. Though Mujib is accused of advocating secession for East Pakistan, the fact is that he did not want a total split-up of Pakistan and never declared independence until it was done in his name after the bloodbath began. To keep his young militants in line, he spoke of “emancipation” and “freedom.” “But there is no question of secession,” Mujib often said. “We only want our due share. Besides, East Pakistanis are in a majority, and it is ridiculous to think that the majority would secede from the minority.”

Yahya recently told a visitor, “My generals want a trial and execution.” Still, there is a feeling that Pakistan’s President might spare Mujib’s life. With hopes for a united Pakistan all but ended by the civil war, keeping Mujib alive would leave open one last option —negotiating the divorce of East and West in peace rather than war.


Mujib and the Declaration of Independence

bb7th_marchThe vow to reveal the rights and wrongs of the history of our Liberation War, and to give individuals the credit they deserve, is a welcome gesture on the part of the caretaker government. The chief of the army General Moeen U. Ahmed has made an overt declaration that they will settle the long-standing disputes about the history of our independence, and deal with them fairly and squarely on the basis of fact.

This sounds very good indeed, especially to those who want to read an undisputed history of our Liberation War, which has undergone huge distortion at the hands of vested quarters and political governments. Party intellectuals held repeated postmortems of history to use it in their favour. This tug of war with our history has caused serious harm to our national integrity. The impressionable young learners have been the worst victims of this. They are confused with the frequent changes in the historical accounts, which are in a state of flux in keeping with the change of the governments.

This long-drawn-out hostility between the two major rival parties, Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), revolves around their two political idols — Mujib and Zia.

The caretaker government seems to be making an attempt to bury the hatchet between these two parties by settling the dispute about who really declared independence of Bangladesh.

The government appears to be taking a conciliatory step to please both the parties. It seem to be keener on mediation than on unearthing the truth.

The government recognises Mujib as the Father of the Nation and Zia as the declarer of independence on Mujib’s behalf. This is good. Mujib was the undisputed leader of our independence and deserves this appellation, regardless of anybody’s recognition. And Zia read out the declaration note on behalf of Mujib on March 27, 1971.

This is surely based on hard fact, but the question is how far this reading out of the declaration note of March 27 could be considered as the formal declaration of the independence of Bangladesh, which was virtually made on March 26, 1971. History should be treated dispassionately, with cool and clinical impersonality. It does not bother about negotiations. So the facts about the declaration of our independence should be taken into consideration by the government.

It is Mujib and only Mujib who, for the first time, formally made the declaration of the independence of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971. S. A. Karim in his Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy writes that the wife of M.R. Siddiqi was given over telephone an urgent message from Bangabandhu received through the wireless operators of Chittagong. The message reads as follows:

“Message to the people of Bangladesh and the people of the world. Rajarbagh police camp and Peelkhana EPR suddenly attacked by Pak Army at 2400 hours. Thousands of people killed. Fierce fighting going on. Appeal to the world for help in freedom struggle. Resist by all means. May Allah be with you. Joy Bangla.”

This message from Bangabandhu was then taken as the declaration of independence, which was read out by M.A. Hannan, general secretary of district (Chittagong) Awami League at 2:30 p.m. On this basis, March 26 was declared Independence Day.

The declaration of independence made by Major Zia took place on the following day (March 27,1971). As a matter of fact, Zia made two speeches. In the first speech, he claimed himself as the president of Bangladesh and urged upon the people to fight the Pakistan army.

When this unauthorised speech created confusion among the people, the Awami League leaders asked Zia to read out a text prepared by A. K. Khan to nullify the effect of the speech he had previously made. Zia followed the suggestion and made a second speech, where he categorically mentioned that he was speaking on behalf of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the great national leader. Had there been some other army official, a major or a colonel or the like, the effect would have been the same. Moreover, March 27 has not been declared Independence Day on the basis of Zia’s declaration.

So, Zia should not be said to have declared independence of Bangladesh. He only read out the message of declaration on behalf of Mujib, which, too, has an historic significance that was duly recognised by the Mujibnagar government. In addition, the constitution, which was accepted as the “Declaration of Independence” on April 10, 1971, by 403 elected MPAs and MNAs also bears the testimony to the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu.

Under that constitution was formed the first government of independent Bangladesh (Mujibnagar Government) with Mujib as the first president. The constitution of 1972 was later written in the light of that constitution. As it is put in the sixth section of that constitution (Declaration of Independence):
“Whereas in the facts and circumstances of such treacherous conduct Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of 75 million people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self-determination of the people of Bangladesh duly made a declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26, 1971 …”

Again, in Section 10 of that constitution, Mujib’s declaration of independence is confirmed:

“We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh … thereby confirm the Declaration of Independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”

That Mujib declared independence is an historical truth, which is properly substantiated by the Declaration of Independence of April 10, 1971, which can be considered as the precursor of the constitution of 1972. Bangabandhu is regarded the Father of the Nation for his contribution to the birth of our nation. Although this is a much bigger thing than being the claimant for a declaration, nevertheless, facts cannot be reduced to fantasies.

To show Mujib as the architect of the declaration of independence has got very little to do with his being the founding father of the nation. Even then, all these arguments can be ignored, but the course of history cannot be changed. This is what history is. We can hold it down or repress it. But we cannot stop it. The caretaker government should take great care of the history of the liberation war, bring all these into consideration, and go about the job of amending the text books of the primary and secondary classes in right earnest.

Author : Dr. Rashid Askari, writer, columnist and Professor of English, Islamic University, Kushtia.