Parents of Sheikh Mujib

An interview with his parents.

[EZWebPlayerLite VIDEOURL=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqL_EhnbxJI” THUMBNAILURL=”http://www.bangabandhu.com.bd/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/58F0240AA4AF4AF1CF6678_Large.jpg” SKINURL=”Grey.xml” PLAYARROW=”TRUE” WIDTH=”400″ HEIGHT=”242″ /]

Mazar of BangaBandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh

[EZWebPlayerLite VIDEOURL=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUTWCyd-jyQ” SKINURL=”Grey.xml” PLAYARROW=”TRUE” WIDTH=”400″ HEIGHT=”242″ /]

Founding father under siege . . .

Abdul Matin’s persistence in keeping the historical record straight for Bangladesh is admirable. More to the point, it has been a necessary truth in the collective life of the Bengalis. You could suggest that if Matin were not around to keep us focused on the politics of Bangladesh as it was forged and pressed forward in the 1960s and the 1970s, there would be a huge need to go looking for someone of his kind. Obviously, Matin has done his job well. His preoccupation with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman remains, a particular reason being his understanding that the founding father of Bangladesh has, directly as also indirectly, been under unremitting siege since his assassination in August 1975. To be sure, over the years, Bangabandhu’s legacy has regained some of its earlier lustre, thanks principally to the particularly strong niche his daughter Sheikh Hasina occupies in national politics and thanks also to the concerted struggle his party, the Awami League, has waged over more than three decades to restore his reputation as the man behind the creation of Bangladesh.

The work under review is fundamentally an addition to the position Matin has adopted, through his earlier books, on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He believes, and quite rightly too, that the slings and arrows which have been hurled at Bangabandhu are of a nature that ought not to be taken seriously and yet cannot quite be ignored because of the fair degree of consistency with which his detractors have been trying to run him down posthumously. Many have been the instances when Mujib was castigated for the way he administered the country between 1972 and 1975. It is such criticism which Matin counters in this work. And in doing so, he makes sure that his arguments are backed by necessary documentary references. An instance of it relates to the declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 moments into the genocide launched by the Pakistan army in Dhaka. Matin quotes from United States government documents to underscore the point that Bangabandhu made the call for freedom soon after the army fanned out to different locations in the city.

Obviously, a good deal of what the writer presents here is by now the historical truth. The difference between Matin and the others who remain aware of national history as it developed after March 1971 is that the former bases his statements on well-founded recorded material. He never misses giving readers the footnotes that scholarly work demands, something that a large number of Bengali chroniclers of national history have generally failed to do. It is against such a background that the reader is given to understand the circumstances behind Mujib’s release by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in early 1972 and his subsequent flight to freedom. Matin admires the sagacity in the Bengali leader, a sign of which comes through in the withdrawal of Indian troops from Bangladesh in March 1972. Without saying as much, the writer conveys the impression that the withdrawal could not easily have come to pass had Mujib not been around. In bare terms, the physical presence of Bangabandhu on the Bangladesh scene was to prove pivotal in a good number of ways. The upshot of it all is that Matin appears to be convinced that the troubles Bangabandhu’s government faced in those formative years of Bangladesh’s history were in more ways than one the result of the conspiratorial politics his government could not quite put its finger on. To a very large extent, he is right. But then comes the matter of the rift between Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmed. It is here that Matin appears to be sailing against the wind when he asserts that in quite a number of ways the man who led the wartime Mujibnagar government as prime minister dealt some bad body blows to Mujib even as he served as finance minister in Bangabandhu’s government. Contrary to popular belief that Tajuddin Ahmed found himself increasingly sidelined in Bangabandhu’s government, largely because of his enemies getting better access to the prime minister, Matin is excoriating about what he considers to be the finance minister’s perfidy in finding fault with the way Bangabandhu ran the administration. Matin’s considered opinion is that Bangabandhu’s Second Revolution was essentially what the Father of the Nation said it was: that the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Baksal) was a platform that brought together the nation’s political parties together in the larger national interest. Tajuddin had a different perspective on the development, of course.

There are some bare truths Matin reveals here. The story of how Serajur Rahman, he of the BBC’s Bengali Service, was thwarted in his attempts to come by a job in Bangabandhu’s government is what the writer relates, no holds barred, in the work.

Read the book. It adds to your understanding of the forces which shaped politics in Bangladesh in the early 1970s.

. . . Symmetry of the grand and the banal
ASAFUDDOWLAH’S has been a vibrant presence on the Bengali social and bureaucratic scene. His is and has always been an articulate voice. As a civil servant, he was known for his sense of independence, to a point where many thought twice about coming across him. Rare was the individual who wished to fall foul of him, for Asafuddowlah did not mince words when it came to offering an opinion on men and matters. It was always strength of character that defined the man. And it is something that continues to underpin his perspectives on things around him. On television chat shows, he offers his own clear assessments of political conditions, some of which may not go down well with his detractors. They may, indeed do, find him abrasive at times.

The point here is that Asafuddowlah remains indifferent to all such expressions of sentiment about him. His outspokenness is all. And with that comes the other side of his personality, that which keeps him riveted to the world of music. Even as he has pursued a career in the civil service, first in Pakistan and then in Bangladesh, he has made sure that songs have remained close to him, or he to them. He has composed music, he has lent his voice to songs and he has discoursed on them. His rendering of ghazals has been remarkable. Anyone who has heard him sing the old Jagmohan number, ik baar muskura do, will know of the artistry he is capable of calling forth. In his wider social ambience, Asafuddowlah is the quintessential conversationalist, with an interplay of serious thought and humour that make him stand out as the star in the crowd.

And this is the background against which Of Pains and Panics must be read. Asafuddowlah falls into the mould of those who came of age in an era of enlightenment and then went on to reshape the era according to their specifications. Like many of his social club, he has believed in approaching life from an intellectual point of view. Just how much of suavity he has brought into his observations of life comes through in this eminently readable compendium of his thoughts on an array of subjects not many would care to spend time on these days. There are clear divisions of the essays into wide-ranging swathes of territory. Begin with music. There is a sense of certainty, for obvious reasons, with which he approaches the many strands of the subject. He takes the BBC to task, for all the right reasons, over its selection of historically notable Bangla songs. It is pretension he slices through here. And then he moves on to pay obeisance to the artistes who have with regularity enhanced the quality of Bengali music. Protima Banerjee is one he reveres. Another is the all-encompassing Kamal Dasgupta. The music director, he informs us, remained self-effacing right till the end. And as the end approached, as he was being wheeled into hospital, the officer on duty had an asinine question: was Dasgupta a class one officer? Ah, artistes lose out, often if not always, to the bureaucracy!

Some of the most touching of articles in this collection connect Asafuddowlah to those he was once close to, until death intervened to take them away. He writes with deep affection on his mother and then reflects on his father. Perhaps a coruscating part of the tribute to Khan Bahadur Moulvi Mohammad Ismail is the praise he showers on his niece Komli (‘…his youngest daughter’s youngest daughter, Komli, who he used to adoringly call ‘Chand di’, nursed him in his fading days with a kind of special devotion I have never witnessed in my life’). It is a vast world of thoughts Asafuddowlah covers in the work. His views on America are a sharp response to Washington’s actual behaviour on the global scene. In Bangladesh, he wonders aloud at the swift decline in the quality of politics, almost to a point where the powerful begin to think of themselves as little gods. There is a symmetry he establishes between the grand and the banal. How else would you observe his tribute to Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and then his consternation at the presence of so many ministers in the government of as small a country as Bangladesh?

Asafuddowlah is combustive by nature. That is his assessment of himself. Just how combustive — and combative — he can be is an exercise you might as well opt for through reading these pieces. He is not being didactic; he carefully avoids scaling the Olympian heights that lesser men always strive for. He gives you the workings of his mind as they happen to be — blunt, irreverent but playing with ideas all the same.

Two reviews from Syed Badrul Ahsan / Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star.

Biography : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Biography : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Some of the biographers of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman have said that he was the most astonishing and much talked about leader in South East Asia. In an age of military coup d’etat he attained power through elections and mass upsurge; in an age of decline of democracy he firmly established democracy in one of the countries of Asia and in an age of “Strong Men” he spurned the opportunity of becoming a dictator and instead chose to become the elected Prime Minister. The way he turned a nonviolent non-cooperation movement of unarmed masses into an armed struggle that successfully brought into reality the liberation of a new nation and the creation of a new state in barely ten months will remain a wonder of history.

Sheikh Mujibur RahmanMarch 7, 1971 was a day of supreme test in his life. The leaders of the military junta of Pakistan were on that day eagerly waiting to trap him. A contingent of heavily armed Pakistani troops was poised near the Suhrawardy Uddyan to wait for an order to start massacre the people on the plea of suppressing a revolt that Bangabandhu was about to declare against Pakistan at the meeting he was going to address there.

In fact, the entire Bangladesh was then in a state of revolt. The sudden postponement of the scheduled session of the newly elected National Assembly and the reluctance of the military leaders to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people had driven the people to desperation and they were seeking the opportunity to break away from the Pakistani colonial rule. Nearly two million freedom-loving people who assembled at the Suhrawardy Uddyan that day had but one wish, only one demand : “Bangabandhu, declare independence; give us the command for the battle for national liberation.”

The Father of the Nation spoke in a calm and restrained language. It was more like a sacred hymn than a speech spellbinding two million people. His historic declaration in the meeting on that day was : “Our struggle this time is for freedom. Our struggle this time is for independence”. This was the declaration of independence for Bangladeshis, for their liberation struggle. But he did not give the Pakistani military rulers the opportunity to use their arms. He foiled their carefully laid scheme. In the same speech he took care to put forward four proposals for the solution of the problem in a constitutional way and kept the door open for negotiations.

He was taller than the average Bangalee, had the same dark complexion and spoke in a vibrant voice. But what special power gave him the magnetic qualities of drawing a mass of seventy-five million people to him? This question stirred the minds of many people at home and abroad. He was not educated abroad nor was he born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Yet he was as dear to the educated Bangladeshi compatriots as to the illiterate and half-educated masses. He inspired the intelligentsia and the working classes alike. He did not climb to leadership overnight. It has been a slow and steady process. He attained his enviable eminence the hard way. He began as an humble worker at the bottom rung. He arduously climbed to the position of a national leader and rose to the very pinnacle as the Father of the Nation.

He was born in a middle class Bangalee family and his political leadership arose out of the aims and aspirations of the ordinary Bangalee. He was inseparably linked with the hopes and aspirations, the joys and sorrows, the travails and triumphs of these ordinary people. He spoke their language. He gave voice to their hopes and aspirations. Year after year he spent the best days of his youth behind the prison bars. That is why his power was the power of the people.

Whoever has once come in contact with him has admitted that his personality, a mingling of gentle and stern qualities, had an uncanny magical attraction. He is as simple as a child yet unbending in courage; as strong as steel when necessary. Coupled with this was his incomparable strength of mind and steadfast devotion to his own ideals. He was a nationalist in character, a democrat in behavior, a socialist in belief and a secularist by conviction.

Bangabandbu had to move forward step by step in his struggle. He had to change the tactics and the slogans of the movement several times. It can thus be said that though the period of direct struggle for freedom was only nine months, the indirect period of this struggle spread over 25 years. This 25-year period can be divided into several stages. These are : (a) organizational stage of the democratic movement; (b) movement against BPC or Basic Principles Committee’s report; (c) language movement; (d) forging of electoral unity and the victory of the democratic United Front; (e) military rule; (f) movement against the military rule; (g) movement for autonomy; (h) the historic Six-Point movement; (i) electoral victory and the non-cooperation movement; and j) armed liberation struggle.

Bangabandhu has been closely associated with every phase of this 25-year long struggle for freedom and independence. Bangladesh and Bangabandhu have, therefore, become inseparable. We cannot speak of one without the other.

While still adolescent, he took his first political lesson from Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, a leading political personality of the then Bangladesh. It was in Faridpur that Young Suhrawardy and adolescent Sheikh Mujib came to know each other. Both of them were attracted to each other from that first acquaintance. Adolescent Mujib grew up under the gathering gloom of the storm-tossed politics of the sub-continent and the Second World War. He witnessed the ravages of war and the stark realities of the 1943 famine and the epidemics in which about five million people lost their lives. The miserable plight of the people under colonial rule turned him into a rebel.

He passed his matriculation examination in 1942. His studies had been interrupted for about four years due to an attack of beriberi. He got acquainted with the revolutionary activities of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose during the Hallwell Monument movement in Calcutta. Suhrawardy’s staunchly logical approach and Subhash Bose’s spirit of dedication influenced him immensely. He was influenced by another great leader, “Sher-e-Bangla” A.K. Fazlul Huq and his political philosophy of the plain fare (“dal-bhat”) for all. At that very early stage he realised that in a poor exploited country political programmes must be complimentary to economic programmes.

He completed his college education in Calcutta. His sojourn to the prisons began in his teens. He first spent six days in a prison for participating in a political movement. While he was a student in Calcutta, he moved the natural eddies of the political movements of the subcontinent and got himself associated with the Muslim League and the Pakistan movement. But soon after the creation of Pakistan and the partition of Bengal in 1947, he realised that his people had not attained real independence. What had happened was a change of masters. Bangladesh would have to make preparations for independence movement a second time.

He graduated in the same year and came to develop a deep acquaintance with the works of Bernard Shaw. Karl Marx and Rabindranath Tagore. The horizon of his thought process began to expand from that time. He realised that Bangladesh was a geographical unit and its geographical nationalism was separate; its economic, political and cultural characters were also completely different from those of the western part of Pakistan. Over and above, linguistic differences and a physical distance of about 1,500 miles between them made the two parts of Pakistan totally separate from each other.

He could, therefore, realize that by keeping the two areas under the forced bonds of one state structure in the name of religious nationalism, rigid political control and economic exploitation would be perpetrated on the eastern part. This would come as a matter of course because the central capital and the economic and military headquarters of Pakistan had all been set up in the western part.

The new realization and political thinking took roots in his mind as early as 1948. He was then a student in the Law faculty of Dhaka University. A movement was launched that very year on the demand to make Bengali one of the state languages of Pakistan. In fact, this movement can be termed as the first stirrings of the movement of an independent Bangladesh. This demand for cultural freedom gradually led to the demand for national independence. During that language movement, Bangabandhu was arrested on March 11, 1948. During the blood-drenched language movement of 1952 also he was pushed behind the bars and took up leadership of the movement from inside the jail.

Bangabandhu was also in the forefront of the movement against the killing of policemen by the army in Dhaka in 1948. He was imprisoned for lending his support to the strike movement of the lower grade employees of Dhaka University. He was expelled from the University even before he came out of the prison.

In 1950, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan announced the Basic Principles Committee’s report for framing a constitution. This report manipulated to turn the majority of Bangladesh into a minority through subterfuges, and to make Urdu the state language. There was a spontaneous countrywide upsurge in Bangladesh against this report and the Bangabandhu was at its forefront.

Bangabandhu was elected Joint Secretary of the newly formed political organization, the Awami League. Previously he had been the leader of the progressive students’ organization, the Chhatra League. In 1953 he was elected General Secretary of the Awami League.

Elections to the then Provincial Assembly of Bangladesh was held in 1954. A democratic electoral alliance-the United Front-against the ruling Muslim League was forged during that election. The 21 -point demand of the United Front included full regional autonomy for Bangladesh and making of Bengali one of the state languages.

The United Front won the elections on the basis of the 21 -point programme and Bangabandhu was elected member of the Provincial Assembly. He joined the Huq Cabinet of the United Front as its youngest Minister. The anti-people ruling clique of Pakistan dissolved this Cabinet soon and the Bangabandhu was thrown into prison.

In 1955 he was elected member of the second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. He was again appointed a Minister when the Awami League formed the Provincial Cabinet in 1956. But he voluntarily left the Cabinet in July 1957 in order to devote himself fully to the task of reorganizing the party.

General Ayub Khan staged a military coup in Pakistan in 1958 and the Bangabandhu was arrested on various charges and innumerable cases were framed against him. He got back his freedom after 14 months of solitary confinement but was re-arrested in February 1962.


The Bangabandhu revived the Awami League after the death of Mr. H.S. Suhrawardy in 1963. By that time the military Junta had lifted the ban on political parties. Thus the Awami League began its constitutional struggle under the leadership of the Bangabandhu to realize the demand for self-determination of the Bangalees.

The Bangabandhu placed his historic Six-Point programme at a political conference in Lahore in 1966. This programme called for a federal state structure for Pakistan and full autonomy for Bangladesh with a parliamentary democratic system. The Six- Point programme became so popular in a short while that it was turned into the Charter of Freedom for the Bangladeshis or their Magna Carta. The Army Junta of Pakistan threatened to use the language of weapons against the Six-Point movement and the Bangabandhu was arrested under the Defence Rules on May 8, 1966. The powerful mass upsurge that burst forth throughout Bangladesh in protest against this arrest of the Bangabandhu came to be known as June Movement.

On June 17, 1968 he was removed from Dhaka Central Jail to Kurmitola Cantonment and was charged with conspiring to make Bangladesh independent with the help of India. This case is known as the Agartala Conspiracy case. He was the No. 1 accused in the case. While the trial was in progress in the court of a military tribunal the administration of the military junta collapsed as a consequence of a great mass upsurge in Bangladesh at the beginning of 1969.

As a result, he was released together with all the other co-accused. The case was withdrawn and the Bangabandhu was invited to a Round Table Conference at the capital of Pakistan. At this conference President Ayub Khan requested Bangabandhu to accept the Prime Ministership of Pakistan. Bangabandhu rejected the offer and remained firm in his demand for the acceptance of his Six-Point programme.

President Ayub Khan stepped down from power on March 25, 1969 and General Yahya Khan took over the leadership of the army junta, Apprehending a new movement in Bangladesh he promised to re-establish democratic rule in Pakistan and made arrangements for holding the first general elections in December, 1970. Under the leadership of the Bangabandhu. the Awami League won an absolute majority in the elections. The military junta was unnerved by the results of the elections. The conspiracy then started to prevent the transfer of power. The session of the newly elected National Assembly was scheduled for March 3, 1971. By an order on March 1, General Yahya postponed this session.

It acted like a spark to the powder keg; entire Bangladesh burst into flames of political upheaval. The historic non-cooperation movement began. For all practical purposes Bangabandhu took over the civil -administration of Bangladesh. The military junta however began to increase the strength of its armed forces in Bangladesh secretly and to kill innocent Bangalees at different places.

Yahya Khan came to Dhaka by the middle of March to have talks with Bangabandhu. Mr. Zulflqar Ali Bhutto and other leaders also came a few days later. When everybody was feeling that the talks were going to be successful Yahya Khan stealthily left Dhaka in the evening of March 25. The barbarous genocide throughout Bangladesh began from that midnight.

Bangabandhu was arrested at midnight of March 25 and was flown to the western wing. But before he was arrested, he formally declared independence of Bangladesh and issued instructions to all Bangladeshis, including those in the armed forces and in the police to take up arms to drive out the Pakistani occupation forces.

For ten long months from March 1971 to January 1972 Bangabandhu was confined in a death-cell in the Pakistani prison. His countrymen did not even know if he was dead or alive. Still, stirred by his inspiration, the nation threw itself heart and soul into the hick of the liberation war and by the middle of December the whole of Bangladesh was cleared of the occupation forces.

Freed from the Pakistani prison, the Bangabandhu came back home on January 10, 1972 and stepped down from the Presidentship and took up the responsibility as the Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh on 12 January 1972. Immediately he took steps for the formulation of the Constitution of the country and to place it before the Constituent Assembly. After the passage of the Constitution on 4 November 1972, his party won an overwhelming majority in the elections held on 7 March 1973 and took up the responsibility of running the administration of the country for another five-year term. After the fourth amendment of the constitution on 25 January 1975 (changing the form of Government from the Parliamentary to the Presidential system), the Bangabandhu entered upon the office of the President of Bangladesh. Within three years of independence he put the war-ravaged country along the path of political stability and economic reconstruction. On 15 August 1975, he along with all the members (excluding two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana who were abroad) of his family were brutally assassinated by a splinter group of armed forces.

The Bangabandhu is the Father of the Nation. His state philosophy has four pillars: Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism and Secularism. His foreign policy opened up new horizons of peace, cooperation and non-alignment throughout Asia. He visited many countries of Asia and Europe including China and the Soviet Union. Statesmen of many countries of Asia countries were his personal friends. He was awarded Julio Curie Peace Prize for his being a symbol of world peace and cooperation. In the eyes of the people in the third world, he is the harbinger of peace and development in Asia.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The leader of a nation

The leader of a nation

Bangladesh won victory on December 16, 1971 as a sovereign country through a bloody civil war in which millions died, 10 million became refugee in India to escape torture, and 30 million were uprooted from their homes. Every household in then East Pakistan suffered due to military atrocities. The leader behind their independence struggle was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a tall man with a bushy moustache. Like Nelson Mandela, he spent most of his prime lifetime in jail as he demanded justice, fair share and democracy for his people. During 1966 when he launched his six-point program for regional autonomy for all provinces of Pakistan, he was arrested 14 times in a 2-year period. He was even sentenced to death and was forced to dig his own graveyard but Almighty Allah had a different plan for him. Instead of being hanged by then Pakistan’s Military ruler, General Yahya Khan, he was released as a national hero and on return to his homeland, became the Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh, a truncated country on January 12, 1972. The man who was chosen overwhelmingly to be the Prime Minister of ‘united Pakistan’ in 1970 was sentenced to death. However, he escaped death in Pakistan and ended up as the ‘father of a new nation’. Like Nelson Mendela or Mahatma Gandhi of India, he endured suffering and imprisonment to achieve emancipation for his countrymen. His countrymen out of love and for his sacrifice honored him with the title of “Bangabandhu”, meaning ‘friend of Bangladesh’ in Bengali. The Time Magazine in its cover story referred him as “Poet of Politics”. He was a rare man of courage with strong determination and political acumen. He was born on March 17, 1920 and at age 12, he had to leave school for 3 years as his eyes were to be operated upon.

In 1944 he graduated from the Islamia College of Calcutta and became a ‘voice for the Muslim cause’. He worked hard for the creation of Pakistan, then ‘dream homeland’ for Muslims of India. When Pakistan was created, he found his dream shattered and subjugation was let loose on Bengalis. As a student of the Law Department and as an eloquent speaker in three languages of then Pakistan, Urdu, Bengali and English, he protested the imposition of Urdu as the ‘only state language of Pakistan’ and therefore, he was arrested and was expelled from the Dhaka University in 1948. After 24 years, the Dhaka University rescinded its expulsion order when he became Prime Minister and it accorded him life membership in 1972. As a Muslim activist, he fought against Hindu domination and with the same spirit, he fought against the Pakistani subjugation. At age 34, he got elected as a Member of Parliament and became a Minister of then East Pakistan in 1954 defeating pro-Urdu party of Pakistan, the Muslim League. But within 14 days of assumption of power, the elected government was dismissed by then Pakistan’s Federal government headed by a former bureaucrat, Gulam Mohammed, then Pakistan’s Governor General. Soon he appointed his colleague, a former Indian Intelligence Officer, General Iskandar Mirza as East Pakistan’s Governor. However, when political activities resumed, Sheikh Mujib again got elected and became the Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1956. After 14 months when General Ayub Khan imposed Martial Law in October 1957, he was jailed again and he basically remained in jail until 1969. In 1969 mass movement throughout Pakistan forced President Ayub to release him and drop the infamous Agarthala Conspiracy case against him. President Ayub invited him to a Round Table Conference (RTC) in Rawalpindi on February 1969 and as Ayub Khan refused to compromise on his ‘6-point autonomy demand’, he walked out of the RTC on March 13, 1969. Following this, Gen. Yahya ousted Ayub on March 23, 1969. He held all-Pakistan national election for the first time in December 1970 in which Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League got the majority seats– 167 out 169 in East Pakistan and his allied parties got another 35 in West Pakistan totaling 202 in Pakistan’s 300-seat National Assembly. Pakistan’s Zulfiker Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) got a total of 80 seats. Therefore, Bhutto demanded that power be shared and be handed over to “two majority parties” of East and West Pakistan’. Otherwise, he would not allow the session to resume. At his threat, Gen. Yahya abruptly postponed the resumption of the National Assembly and on March 25, 1971, he imprisoned Bangabandhu and let loose a ‘genocide’ in then East Pakistan in which 3 million died. Finding no other alternative, Bangladeshis, rank and file, fought valiantly and they defeated the occupation army. Pakistan’s 97,000 well-trained soldiers surrendered on December 16, 1971 to the Joint Forces of Bangladesh and India.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was in power from January 12, 1972 to August 15, 1975, a total of 3 and half years. The man who sacrificed his entire life for ‘justice and fair share for his people, the man who fought to establish democracy and economic well being of his country’ was assassinated on August 15, 1975 along with his wife, three sons, two daughters-in-laws, brother, brother-in-law and his daughters, son and grandson, his nephew and nephew’s wife including his security officer totaling 16 members. Luckily two of his daughters, Sheikh Hasina (former Prime Minister of Bangladesh) and Sheikh Rehana escaped death as they were abroad at the time. An ‘Indemnity Ordinance’ protecting the murderers was incorporated in the constitution by the new government under General Ziaur Rahman and the self-confessed killers were rewarded with business and lucrative diplomatic jobs abroad. Because of the towering personality of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Indian forces had to leave Bangladesh soil on March 17, 1972 and the country received world recognition at rapid speed including a seat at the UN, the IMF and the World Bank.

Bangabandhu became the head of government in a war ravaged country in which roads, bridges, schools, colleges, communication network, industries, in fact, the whole infrastructure were heavily damaged or destroyed, millions were uprooted and the nation had no experience of running a national government. Its ferries, trucks and buses were destroyed and its railway lines were uprooted. The nation had not a single aircraft, nor there was any seagoing vessel. There was no foreign exchange reserve in the country and the nation’s food godowns were not only empty, the agricultural cropland remained uncultivated due to war. The defeating and departing army either destroyed schools and infrastructure or set them afire. Moreover, the police force and the civil administration were totally collapsed, and in addition, large amount of arms and ammunition left to anti-liberation forces made the law and order situation all the more difficult. Naturally, it was a daunting task for any leadership. In spite of such hardship, the new government moved quickly to restore normal lifeit set up new administration, collected arms and ammunitions, repatriated and rehabilitated 10 million refugees from India, rehabilitated another 400,000 stranded Bangladeshis from Pakistan, ensured 44,000 cusecs of water from the Ganges-Jamuna tributaries, adopted a constitution, opened 11,000 primary schools, employed 50,000 new teachers and nationalized 580 industrial units left by Pakistani owners including banks and insurance companies. His government banned all anti-Islamic and anti-social activities like gambling, horse race, drinking of liquor, and it established Islamic Foundation and reorganized Madrassa education and supplied free books to all students upto class V and at subsidized rate upto class VIII. To encourage agricultural crop, it waved tax up to 25 bighas, distributed khas land to landless farmers and installed 46,000 power pumps in 1973. Besides, certificate cases against 1 million farmers were lifted and it distributed 16,125 tons of high-yielding rice seeds, 454 tons of jute seeds and 1,037 tons of wheat seeds. Soon the country faced few serious external problems such as the four-fold increase of gasoline price following the Middle East war of 1973, the world wide shortage of food production causing doubling of food price and subsequent cut in US Food Aid plus the devastating flood of 1974. These environmental factors combined with domestic under production due to war and abandonment of industries and unavailability of spare parts and raw materials created shortage of essentials in the country and inflation jumped to a record high of 56 per cent. Owing to the enormity of problems, administrative inexperience and corrupt associates, his administration failed to meet people’s expectation. But that is a different story.

Bangabandhu restored Bangladesh’s relationship with Pakistan in 1974 and pardoned collaborators against the advice of many as he was a ‘peace maker’. He invited Muslim Heads of governments including President Bhutto to visit Bangladesh. He accorded him a rousing reception and pardoned few hundred war criminals at his request. They were even allowed to accompany Bhutto to Pakistan. However, Pakistani leadership failed to reciprocate such goodwill gesture in resolving the outstanding issues including the repatriation of Pakistani nationals, the Biharis who faithfully supported the Pakistan occupation army in identifying and killing the Bangladesh supporters. Their faith in Pakistan is now being shattered.

Bangabandhu said, “those who cannot maintain law and order cannot expect to be a great nation… political freedom comes to naught if it fails to ensure economic freedom…we must extricate corruption from the soil of Bangladesh”. Unfortunately, law and order problems, economic deprivation and corruption are still rampant. Therefore, the greatest task he has left behind is to create a “golden Bangladesh” where the people will be law-abiding and the society corruption free. This article was published in DailyStar of Bangladesh. Author Dr. Abdul Momen is a Professor of Economics and Management in Boston and currently working in Saudi Arabia.

Author :  Dr. Abdul Momen