Memoir: Zia’s wristwatch

AKM Maidul Islam

One day I was in a helicopter with President Zia. It was around half-past nine that day. But the wristwatch of our President was showing half-past seven. So I told him, sir, your wristwatch is not working.

He laughed and told me, ‘I had a good watch actually but I lost it during a meeting at Comilla.’ Then he gave the wristwatch to his ADC to fix it.

Then, at some point of the day, the ADC of the President came to me complaining. He said, ‘Sir, how long a watch that costs only 400 takas can sustain? When I go to shops to fix this, they tell me all the parts of this watch are too old to be fixed. Allow us to replace them with new ones.’

I replied, ‘if you told this to the President, he will put you on the firing squad. Just go and fix it.’

Eventually, Zia died as a President wearing a 400 taka watch. Though at that time there were 14-15 expensive watches, as much as of 3 lakhs taka, at Bangabhaban. KM Kaiser was then Bangladesh’s permanent representative at the United Nations. He gifted President Zia an expensive watch. He once sent late Colonel Akbar to Indonesia in search of oil. He gave one of those watches as a gift to President Suharto of Indonesia. Foreign dignitaries used to gift these watches to President Zia. But he never used them. He put them in a showcase at Bangabhaban. These are the ideals he set by example.

AKM Maidul Islam was a minister of President Zia’s cabinet who later joined Jatiya Party and was an MP during Sheikh Hasina government of 2009-2013.


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