Allah, Army, America



E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

Photo: Ekushe February, 1953. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with Maulana Bhasani.

[Tasneem Khalil, Sweden.]

Since its birth, Pakistan has been said to be ruled by triple A: “Allah,” “Army” and “America.” Even today, years after the independence of “East Pakistan,” endless sectarian riots in Karachi confirm the murky influence of religion in Pakistani politics. And when Condoleezza Rice — the American Secretary of State — flies in from Washington to Islamabad to meet the President, she is greeted by a man in khaki.

Policies that govern the modern day Pakistan are, one way or the other, observers argue, set by the adherents of mullahism or imperialism, and accordingly enforced by the military junta. That is Pakistan in 2005 and that was Pakistan in 1971. Little has changed, that too in a negative direction.

But, in 1971, one finger that rose in admonishment of these entrenched powers was of the Sheikh. Throughout February-March, East Pakistan was virtually ruled by a leader with seven million people rallied behind him. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged as a dot of difference on the world map.

In March, 1971, (sceptics please reread your history books) no bank transaction was cleared and not a single wheel moved without Sheikh Mujib’s nod, while politicians in Jinnah caps, the army and diplomats were driven out of the scene, at least for the month of rebellion. Nine months of struggle for liberation, somewhat symbolically led by the Sheikh, gave birth to Bangladesh — a secular, democratic, and non-aligned state.

It took about four more years for the combined powers that had been defeated in the liberation war to cook a plot, and hit back. On a bleak August morning thirty years ago, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was brutally assassinated. And in the following years, religion, military, and imperialism took the driving seat of Bangladeshi politics once again. Bangladesh, post-Mujib, took a bumpy flight away from its secular, socialist, democratic promises.

A country that earned its freedom fighting a fallacious notion of religious nationhood, soon became a country with a constitution proclaiming its faith in the Almighty. The Military dictators who succeeded Mujib have made sure that religion plays a key role in Bangladeshi politics. Islam was to become the state religion and houses of worship became the Friday offices of a President. In the recent past, we have even witnessed how headscarves can be used as election tools. As I am writing this, religious extremism and sectarian persecution are building to new heights with Jihadist outfits mushrooming around the country.

Bangladesh, post-Mujib, became a helpless population ruled for decades by the generals in khaki. Military rules that succeeded the Sheik’s assassination forced the country backwards and turned Bangladesh into a replica of Pakistan under Ayub or Yahiya. They were to lay the foundations for the nation to be perceived as “the most corrupted country” in the world. And they were to curtail freedom of press in its totality. Our days spent with the military rule can be labeled as our days of disgust and despair.

And then, there are ambassadors and high-commissioners who somehow manage to act like modern day viceroys in Bangladesh. Post-Mujib, Bangladesh was to become hostage at the hands of imperialist designs. Diplomats from Gulshan are now puppet-masters, while the Secretariat and Minto Road dances to their tune.

Sheikh was Allende (Chile), Mossadegh (Iran), and at the same time, as many of us keep on arguing, he was “a failed statesman” and “a leader who won the war but lost the peace.” As if post-Sheikh Bangladesh has been blessed with a parade of successful statesmen. Post-Sheikh, name one leader who outsized or outgrew or out-performed him. Anyone? None. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the icon of Bangladesh’s fight against mullahism, military dictatorship, and imperialism.

On that fateful August morning this convergence of powerful interests struck back and brutally assassinated Mujib. They successfully took their revenge but one thing that is for sure — Mujib will outlive his assassins.

This article was first published by The Daily Star on August 15, 2005. The newspaper was hesitant to use the original title and thus opted for “Mullahism, military and Mujib.”

Tasneem Khalil [] is Consulting Editor, E-Bangladesh.

[Read posts by Tasneem Khalil]


E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

11 Responses to “Allah, Army, America”

  1. Author Image

    Saleem Samad

    Brilliant article indeed! I have heard excellent comments from friends in USA and Australia. I like your title, rather the drab and boring heading published in Daily Star. Keep up your good works. Cheers.

  2. Author Image


    What is the point here? Why AL (Hasina) signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with an Islamic Party just before 1/11, to win the election? I think AL is now a disgrace to Mujib. This report has spelling mistakes, I don’t know how The Daily Star published it. People need to improve their English as I see also.

  3. Author Image


    This is really interesting. The Observer (who have no wish to publish his/her name) correctly said that AL is now a disgrace to Mujib. But both of them (Tasneem and Observer) have ignored or can’t realize the point that after seeing his popularity and position, now Allah, army and America all are willing to absorb Mujib in their own space. Even, you see, Jamaat — the collaborators of Pakistanis — are now talking in what language. They say that Mujib understood them, so he was sympathetic to them, though not on Ganobahini or Sarbohara, and he have a wish to establish a Muslim state like Pakistan (though that is only mullah

  4. Author Image

    Muhamad Lodhi

    The Daily Star, at the end of the day, like most of the mainstream media, does not operate with real balls. So, why would the DS publish the article with its original title?

  5. Author Image


    How long you will be posting old things? Please come up with new ideas. Well… well… human rights… religion… are most common issues to draw attention. How is the life in Sweden? You are a success story. Now we have to wait for another TS to be settled in Sweden. Let me give a try… DJ

  6. Author Image



    I have no problem in reading others’ writings as long as I can get the message, irrespective of the grammar.

    But, when someone wants to boast that his/her article is published in a well-known daily, it’s better go through some minimum spell checks ( I did not say “grammar”). In this age of computer editing, I would say someone (along with the editors if they do not fix it) is simply “lazy” who does not turn on his/her spell checker. I think, this is, in a way, showing disrespect to the readers of the daily . Would you disagree with this? If you do, please let me know, why? I don’t want to sound like a perfectionist here, but, again if someone wants to boast, I would stand by what I said in my first message.

    “But, do you know who are making history? Who puts data or analysis for history? As we see in case of old missioners or colonial officer, ethnographers, they did not wait for grammar.” — they did exactly what? Please educate me or rather provide the answer to the question that you put here; otherwise, your idea may not get across and I feel sorry for you.

  7. Author Image

    Iconus Clustus

    Hey Observer – whose English are you complaining about? I really hope it is your own… You know, I have absolutely no problems in reading the posts from people who do not write English as if it is their mother tounge… why should they, right? I focus on the subject matter and not fret over the language. However, I do have problems in reading posts from people with erroneous English those who complain about other people’s English-skills. If the substance of your post is “English language and its correct use,” then you better be the first person to be using the language accurately. Should I point out all the places you made mistakes in those three or four lines that you wrote? Neah – I will save you the humiliation. Just a caveat: Fix your own first buddy, before you complain about others. You are only making a fool out of yourself.

  8. Author Image

    Iconus Clustus

    A little more for the Observer:

    You may not be aware of how it works with the newspapers… say, you write and submit an article. What do you think they will do? What do you think all those people employed as editors do there? Just copy and paste, I suppose, right? Wrong. They have a routine in terms of dealing with a story – therefore, the errors you find in an article published in a Daily Newspaper, should first and foremost be addressed to the editor of the daily. I hope I was able to make myself clear. Now, get out of this rut of a topic and focus on more important things – like, how true it really is that this nation is not so different from Pakistan, that this country is also nothing but a tripple-A heaven.

  9. Author Image


    TO IC:

    BD: “nothing but a tripple-A heaven”

    The difference between BD and PAK — only 3 things — tripple A. I don’t know what makes u to say that. How many more differences you want to see between BD and Pak? I can point to at least 100. Compare their GDP, education, leadership, expats. And if you cannot see more than 3, probably, I should not continue this discussion.

    Now, since you are saving me from humiliation… you r such a nice fellow…

    I am not giving more than a few minutes in typing the posts here and I am not sending it to a daily (again do you think turning on the MS Word spell checker is a big deal — are we debating on this. I am sure, the writers can do it and I am sure the writer will agree without much fuss).

    So, I care less in my writing here and I did not make it my main point — please read my original. It was a side-note. In fact, how you express has some (even 1%) impact on what you r trying to say, even though there are editors.

    But, if I claim myself as an editor (in my writings) as the article owner here indicates, I definitely would do a thorough job and show how competent I am. Don’t go after me.. and one more thing, why are you so sensitive on this topic. Mistake is mistake — just say, yeah it happens and we will try our best and move on. I am not going to beat on this.

  10. Author Image

    Iconus Clustus

    Observer: I think I understood… then again, I am not completely sure… let me try to make my point clear… primary or secondary — if you are going to make a point of improving one’s English, then you should be making sure that your own English is good enough to be saying that. It is only common sense…

    There of course are thousands of differences between Pakistan and Bangladesh. And in case you didn’t know, those are a major reason why we had to part our ways back in 1971. I guess you didn’t quite understand the drift of my post… the similarities here are in terms of ideological stances that have guided us despite our differences… since 1947, when the region was split based on religion, religionists have tried to guide the country accordingly and I think they have by and large succeeded… there lies the similarities… the triple is about that… Army, Allah, and America…

    The only aberration in this regard has been our struggle to break free off that religionist state, though we could never really get out of it. Am I being a bit clearer this time around?

  11. Author Image


    I think majority of the issues of BD (which include the 3 factors named here) will be taken care of if poverty is alleviated and higher education/job training is made easier/attractive to majority of the people. To improve poverty, best way is to reduce corruption. And that needs a clean tax system. For better higher education we need: more industries, no session jam, less involvement of students/teachers in politics. Once people have education/training and hence also jobs, it will not be easy for army to show up now and then, and use Allah for almost anything. People will not show up in streets just as they are paid money since they will have better things to do and improve their own lives directly. Students will focus on study/research as jobs will be waiting for them. And this will be a circular process as more industries will go global. But, somewhere it has to start. I don

Comments are closed.