Ziaur Rahman 101

What is Ziaur Rahman’s biggest contribution to Bangladesh?

Ziaur Rahman gave our nation a clear identity. After independence, our national identity was declared as ‘Bangali’ and expectedly this created a lot of confusion. This identity ignored the non-Bangali citizens including the indigenous people of different part of Bangladesh as well as the urdu speaking citizens. Ziaur Rahman first coined the word ‘Bangladeshi’ as our national identity and successive government since then has maintained this identity. He also presented his vision of Bangladeshi nationalism and sutured together the geographic, historic, religious, cultural and political components of our nationhood. He based his politics on nationalism at a time when nationalism has not yet become a pan-global craze. In this context he can be called the father of Bangladeshi nationalism or father of our current national identity.

Continue reading

What is Bangladeshi Nationalism?

A great debate is going on in Unheard Voices about Bengali and Bangladeshi nationalism. Two high court judges led by Justice Khairul Haque ruled to strike down Bangladeshi nationalism from our constitution. The appellate division changed that ruling in a manner, which, rather than clarifying the issue, made the issue more contentious.

In continuation of the two posts below, let’s see how the proponent of this Bangladeshi nationalism presented his case.

Here are the excerpts from late President Ziaur Rahman’s address to the BNP MPs of the second parliament. I have reproduced the absract portion on Bangladeshi nationalism from the rather long presentation. I’ll put the English translation first followed by the scan of the original Bangla speech.
Continue reading

Ziaur Rahman: The man who gave us our identity

When President Ziaur Rahman was killed, he was only 45. But within this short life span he contributed enormously to Bangladesh. His catalytic role in initiating the mass revolt among Bengali members of the armed-forces after the brutal military crackdown of 25th March 1971, and his contribution as a military leader of Bangladesh’s war of independence distinguishes him as one of our top national heroes. Zia’s post independence role in building modern Bangladesh brick-by-brick by revamping all sectors starting from mutiny-ridden ‘broken-chain-of-command’ military, to her global image, to initiation of open-market-economy, are enough to immortalize him.
Yet, Ziaur Rahman’s lasting legacy will be his contribution to give the people of Bangladesh an identity — ‘Bangladeshi’ — that is inclusive of all the races, ethnic groups and religions. This identity emanates from Zia’s political philosophy of Bangladeshi nationalism, which was embraced very enthusiastically by an overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis. The political philosophy of ‘Bangladeshi Nationalism’ was expressed as his forward looking, conciliatory, inclusive and tolerant modus-operandi of nation building.
In an orientation session for the newly-elected BNP members of the 2nd Parliament, Zia explained Bangladeshi nationalism the following way,

 

Continue reading

Ziaur Rahman and the ‘Force’

The force was never with late president Ziaur Rahman.

DUCSU was then under BNP’s student wing Chhatra Dal (JCD) control, so was majority of the dorms of DU. JCD was overwhelmingly single largest students’ party at DU campus. At that time, when two new dorms were built at DU, they were named Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hall and Muktijoddha Ziaur Rahman Hall.

Today, Prothom-Alo gave single column 3 inches bottom of first page treatment to Zia’s death anniversary and the news item started this way, “Ex-President, Sector commander and Z force leader Ziaur Rahman’s…”.

With these exceptional nice treatments, the very powerful journalist-intellectual-academia Force of Bangladesh, in addition to a big chunk of the general population, carry and promote a very predictable deeply rooted image of Zia.

To this half of the country,

1. Zia, an army general and military dictator is the killer of democracy in Bangladesh.
2. Zia allowed re-establish Jamaat in Bangladesh.
3. Zia killed many freedom fighter army officers including Col Taher, Khaled Mosharraf etc.
4. Zia was a ruthless in suppression of press freedom.

The force, passion behind this accusation is so intense that the supporters of Zia were gratified when Zia was generously donated the title of a freedom fighter by the same force which promoted the above mentioned allegations against Zia.

On the face of intense passionate propaganda against Zia, a mere recognition of him as a freedom fighter was enough for Zia sympathizers and silent supporters.
Continue reading

About the verdict on Colonel Taher trial

While giving the verdict on the legality of the punishment of Colonel Taher, the high-court bench of Justices Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Zakir Hossain declared that the whole trial process was illegal and it was in fact a cold blooded murder of Taher by Late president Ziaur Rahman.

What high-court did to come to this conclusion? They interviewed one shoddy journalist character Lawrence lifshultz, who is a political follower of Taher’s communist doctrine. Other interviewed are also 1. Political opponents of Ziaur Rahman’s political platform 2. Supporters of ruling party who took it as their prime job to destroy Zia’s image 3. Political followers of Colonel Taher. Even the judges who delivered the justice, are publicly known nemesis of Ziaur Rahman’s ideology and are former leaders of socialist political platform based on Taher’s doctrine. And this is probably the first court proceeding in Bangladesh history where an witness could simply deliver his opinion via e mail to a third person. There was no ‘balai’ of oath taking, cross examination etc.

Before we go further into what these two judges did and what their judgment means, lets see what Taher in fact did back in early 70s.
Continue reading

Can AL finish what BNP started?

If one asks BNP activists to say a few things about Ziaur Rahman, it will be difficult to find many who know more than two words, “Swadhinotar Ghoshok”. Since Zia’s death, his own political platform has been in power longer than any other political party. Yet there has been a miserable failure in projecting the late president and his contributions to the post-Zia generations.

Since his death, Zia has been among the most divisive figures in Bangladesh. Until very recently, one’s opinion about Zia could be used reliably as the indicator of one’s political orientation. Those with largely positive views about Zia’s contribution voted consistently against Awami League candidates, while it used to be rare to find an Awami League voter who would have a positive perception of Zia. Hence in electoral politics, BNP used to get easy votes riding on the late president’s high personal popularity.

However, the 2008 election was a rude awakening for BNP as it found that the easy free lunch of votes on Zia image has either disappeared or emotion for Zia is no longer strong enough to ensure automatic vote for BNP.
Continue reading

Ziaur Rahman: the kind of statesman we need now

Today is the 30th death anniversary of President Ziaur Rahman. This anniversary comes at a time when Zia, his image, contribution and his philosophy are under fiercest attack ever.

After decades of relentless attack on Zia, the war hero and Zia the statesman, after abysmal failure of Zia’s party to portray him appropriately and effectively, it is no surprise if much of new generation Bangladeshis carry a faulty perception of Ziaur Rahman.

These days we talk a lot about bringing forward-looking youthfulness in our politics. And we also talk a lot about coming out of the slippery slope of hatred and vengeance and create a politics of reconciliation. We keep on hoping, hopelessly, for political leaders with courage and honesty.
Continue reading

Zia- the freedom fighter, visionary leader and a failed lagacy

In the pages of Bangladesh interest blogs, where you will be labeled BNP supporter if you dare disagree with even a single policy of Sheikh Hasina and where neutrality is a hated concept, one needs a lot of courage to write a tribute to Late President Ziaur Rahman. And I decide to take the unwise step to show the arrogance of writing a blog on Ziaur Rahman, foreseeing a barrage of attacks and a bleeding myself at the end of the ordeal.

A quarter of a century passed since President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated by a group of ranking army officers. Before being assassinated he could rule Bangladesh for around five years. Here are some of my observations about Zia, his life and death, the people’s love and the legacy.
Continue reading

Colonel Taher: A Hero or A Villain?

This was written for Uttorshuri in two installments on Taher Day during July 2006. I am re-posting this on the eve of November 7. This post is not intended to demonize veteran Freedom fighter and ambitious patriotic leader Colonel Abu Taher. No one argues that Col Taher was a patriot and he wanted to prosper Bangladesh in a way he believed to be right way.

Every year late freedom fighter Colonel Taher’s death anniversary is observed with discussions about his life, his dreams, visions, achievements and his valor. Newspapers publish memoirs, detail articles and columns demanding justice for Taher Killing.

The events of this year included an additional element; speeches and interviews by American journalist Lawrence Lifschultz leading a campaign for Taher’s retrial.

Lawrence Lifschultz, in his speeches, urges the concerned authorities for ensuring a fair re-trial of

1. Jail killing of four national leaders
2. Taher death sentence
3. The freedom fighters killed during coups against Zia rule
4. General Manzur’s Killing
5. Death sentence and execution of freedom fighter officers convicted of murdering Zia.

Some of these demands are quite logical and to set the records straight, all these killings definitely need a neutral and fair reevaluation. However it is also interesting to see some deliberate omission from Lifschultz’s list.

The significant omissions are the killing of two sector commanders of our liberation war. They are major general Khaled Mosharraf and Colonel A T M Haider.

Khaled Mosharraf was arguably the most valiant of the military leaders duringmour war of independence in 1971. He almost died in the war with a bullet hittingmhis forehead. After his injury, then Captain ATM Haider took over the command ofmthe sector. He was also another valiant freedom fighter who representedmBangladesh during Pak surrender on 16th December.

More than thirty years later, our nation still doesn’t know much about their killing. It is not exactly clear how they were killed, exactly who killed these brave souls, who ordered the killing, in what situation they died, whether they were executed or they died in gunfight.

It also another big mystery why these two sector Commanders deaths are not mourned every year as it happens in case of Colonel Taher. And there is rarely a call demanding justice of these killings. Also a curiosity arises, why Lawrence Lifschultz does not mention Khaled Mosharraf and ATM Haider in his list.
Continue reading