by F R Chowdhury
Bangladesh Awami League won a landslide victory in 1970 election (the last election before the independence of Bangladesh). President Yahiya postponed and delayed convening the Parliament/ Assembly on the plea of allowing more time to political parties to come to better understanding to ensure greater success of the Assembly. However, this was viewed by majority of East Pakistanis as a conspiracy to foil the result of the election and not to hand-over power to the majority party. On March 7, 1971 Sheikh Mujib, the leader of the Awami League addressed a huge public meeting in Dhaka and advised all East Pakistanis to remain vigilant against all conspiracy. He promised to liberate all East Pakistanis from the clutches of military dictatorship and get them back the freedom and democracy. His speech was very fiery in which he asked the people to remain prepared for ultimate sacrifice as this was the final battle for liberation. But surprisingly he concluded the speech with the words “Joy Pakistan”.
President Yahiya came to Dhaka for discussion with Sheikh Mujib and held series of exclusive meetings. By then Sheikh looked more interested in becoming prime minister of Pakistan rather than liberation of Bangladesh. On 25th March when Yahiya left Dhaka with no conclusive decision, it was obvious that the stale-mate could not continue. Army crack-down was imminent. On the evening of 25th March Mr. Tajuddin, Secretary-General of Awami League went to meet Sheikh Mujib at his residence. Mr. Tajuddin requested Sheikh Mujib to go into hiding to avoid being arrested by the Pakistan Army. Sheikh refused. Mr. Tajuddin had a small tape recorder with him and requested Sheikh Mujib to give a declaration of independence but Sheikh refused. Mr. Tajuddin also had a piece of paper with the declaration of independence and requested Sheikh Mujib to sign and again Sheikh Mujib declined to sign any such paper. When Mr. Tajuddin asked Sheikh Mujib if there was any instruction for them his reply was “do not worry about anything, prepare for a general strike/ hartal on 27th”. Nobody knew what was there in Mujib’s mind. Perhaps he was still dreaming of becoming the prime minister of Pakistan and that is why he did not want to leave any proof/ evidence that could be used against him.
No sooner Mr. Tajuddin left Sheikh’s residence, Mujib was taken into custody by Pakistan Army. Major Bilal said that perhaps sheikh knew about it and was fully prepared for it. Major Bilal accompanied Sheikh Mujib to Karachi. When the vehicle with Mujib was entering the cantonment gate, army tanks and vehicles were coming out of the cantonment to shoot, kill and terrorise the innocent people of East Pakistan/ Bangladesh. The action was simultaneous from all military barracks and installations. First they disarmed all Bangalee members of the armed forces and killed most of the outstanding officers and soldiers before they started their killing spree of civilians. As Sheikh Mujib left no instruction or guidance, people were not prepared for any response. At Dhaka there was some resistance at Peelkhana and Rajarbagh. Mr. Tajuddin and Barrister Amirul Islam managed to escape from Dhaka together to eventually cross the border to India. Col. Osmani also managed to cross border without his moustache.
In Chittagong it was a different story. Major Ziaur Rahman with his followers reached Kalurghat transmission station. In presence of Mr Hannan and Mannan of Awami League, Mr. Bilal of Radio Pakistan, Dr. Anwar Ali and few others, Major Zia declared independence of Bangladesh. He called up on all patriotic citizens of the country to take up arms and fight the invading Pakistani forces until the country is liberated. (This was narrated to me by Dr. Anwar Ali, a good friend of mine). Rest is history as to how the provisional government took oath on 17-April-1971 with Syed Nazrul Islam as the acting president and Mr. Tajuddin as the first prime minister. Bangladesh was eventually liberated on 16-December-1971.
Sheikh Mujib returned to Bangladesh on 10-January-1972 and took over as the president of the republic. Power hungry Mujib was not happy being a figure head president. He wanted to execute all powers and hence became the prime minister. Knowing that he had no contribution to the liberation struggle, he used to feel very uncomfortable in the presence of Tajuddin and Ziaur Rahman. This is the reason why Tajuddin had to leave the cabinet and why Shafiullah became the army chief of staff instead of Ziaur Rahman.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was all the time surrounded by Awami thugs and was unable to establish rule of law. The country suffered badly from miseries of corruption and nepotism. His brother-in-law became a secretary to government from mere section officer in matter of four years. Despite help and assistance from every corner of the world, the country witnessed the worst famine in the known history. Sheikh could not tolerate criticism. Murder of Shiraz Sikder in custody set the first precedent of extra-judicial killing. Sheikh set up the Rakshi Bahini and placed Indian Mag-Gen Uban as its adviser. Instead of removing grievances of the people, Rakshi Bahini would terrorise and silence people with their brutality. Finally Mujib created BAKSHAL and made Bangladesh a one-party state. The man, who fought all his life for democracy, destroyed it in his own hands for the love of power and to perpetuate the power. He became the executive president without being directly elected by the people, something unheard of in any democratic society. For Sheikh Mujib it was different. His words were law. Nobody dared question his decision. Eventually the change came on 15-August-1975 through the brutal killing of Sheikh Mujib and his family except his two daughters who were out of the country at that time.
Bangladesh witnessed lot of changes including military dictatorships. In December 2008 Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib came to power as the prime minister of Bangladesh. There was lot of expectations. But she chose to follow the footsteps of her father. Instead of solving socio-economic problems she became busy to consolidate and perpetuate power.
First thing first – she had a vindictive mind. She had to settle the score. She showed her vengeance by hanging all those connected with her father’s killing. In the name of punishing war-time criminals and collaborators she kept on arresting Islamic minded opposition leaders and putting them on trial. Most of them have so far received death sentence. In one instance law was changed to create scope for the government to appeal for death sentence when the accused already received jail term. The judicial system was misused to satisfy her craving.
Sheikh Hasina used her 2/3rd majority in the house to amend the constitution to remove the provision of election under temporary non-party impartial care-taker government under the last chief justice. This she did so that she could manipulate elections held under her government. This was another way of making sure that she could not be dislodged from power (virtually turning the country to one party rule). Major opposition parties including BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) vowed not to participate in any election unless the constitutional provision was restored for holding elections under neutral care-taker government. Sheikh Hasina remained steadfast on her decision. The country witnessed violent political turmoil but she was not bothered. The UN secretary general Banki-moon sent Mr Oscar Fernandez as special UN envoy to persuade Sheikh Hasina to hold free and fair election to be participated by all parties. President Obama sent Nisha Desai Biswal on a similar mission. Mr. David Cameron, the British prime minister sent a foreign office minister Warsi to Dhaka for the same purpose. The EU representative in Dhaka with most of his EU colleagues tried to persuade Hasina but failed. Even high officials from India came to resolve the crisis but did not get any support from Hasina.
The Awami League propaganda machine kept saying as to how all those envoys appreciated Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to continue the process of democracy. The world witnessed mockery of an election in Bangladesh on 05-January-2014. People boycotted the election. More than half of the total seats were won by BAL uncontested. The ruling party won the majority seats in the Parliament even before the election was held.
Many world leaders attend the general assembly of the United Nations. There is a particular place where the secretary general normally shakes hands of those leaders for courtesy photographs. He did so with Sheikh Hasina as well. This was immediately broadcast over all the official news media in Bangladesh that the secretary general congratulated Bangladesh prime minister on her recent election victory. We came across similar news when U.S. President Obama agreed for a courtesy photograph with Hasina and her son. During her last visit to the United Kingdom there was a brief courtesy meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and we heard how Mr. Cameron congratulated her on her election victory. The world leaders will henceforth be very careful on any such courtesy meetings and photographs. The people of Bangladesh have not forgotten how Mr. Taranco, Nisha Desai and Warsi visited Bangladesh only to persuade Hasina to hold a free and fair election to be participated by all parties. Bangladesh is a country of 180 million people. The world cannot abandon Bangladesh. Other countries will continue to work with the government, no matter which government is in power. This does not mean an endorsement for an illegal government. This only shows their love for the people of Bangladesh.
Mr. H. T. Imam, an adviser to the Prime Minister recently talking to Chatra League divulged the truth as to how the administration was used during the last election. His speech also touched down on the issue of recruitment of civil servants as to how the administration has been made a wing of the political party. Two days later Mr. Amu clearly said that eventually only Awami League would survive as a political party. That is the final plan to turn Bangladesh again into one party state.
The Prime Minister, BAL and her administrative and media machinery may make mountain of lies to hide the truth but truth will surface through the mountain of lies and come to light. One last question when she will give an election under a non-party care-taker government.
London, 26-November-2014 <firstname.lastname@example.org>