From the very beginning in post-liberation Bangladesh, the political progress had been murky and was marred with violent rivalry and blood spilling strife. Pro-liberation forces splintered into hostile camps which helped mighty resurrection of just defeated anti-liberation forces. Theory of conspiracies, both within and beyond the boundary, against the new nation was abound.
The obvious difference surfaced among the freedom fighters in Indian training camps, mostly between Bhasani loyalist ultra left and other group loosely under the command of exile government. After liberation this difference widened and transformed into armed hostility between pro-government and ultra left insurgency. While war was raging, Mao followers defined our liberation war as ‘fight between two dogs’. Bhasani followers like Haq, Toaha, Matin, Alauddin, Siraj Sikder were initially building a ‘Jana Juddho’ in occupied territory against invading army. But Mao’s theory immediately inspired them to change their war strategy and instead of Pakistani army, they started killing Muktijoddhas allegedly to fight Indian grand plan of colonizing Bangladesh. After liberation Bhasani’s foot soldiers, for nine months maintaining surreptitious liaison with Maoist ‘Naxalite’ insurgents in West Bengal, crossed the border and joined the comrades in arm right away.
During this time frame a dramatic development took place in international politics which shook the world – US China Détente. This alliance had immediate and far-reaching adverse impact on anti-imperialist struggles and national liberation movements in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In Bangladesh, the immediate effect was devastating and it has been lingering since. Unity forged by liberation war started crumbling down and the war-ravaged nation started drifting into an ominous unsettling political future. Ultra left camps, now having no ideological inhibition, generously opened the door to recruit ultra right defeated armed collaborators of Pakistani army. This alliance eventually germinated a new formidable political force in Bangladesh which would reverse the course of the nation including it’s ‘Bangalee’ identity.
Soon after returning to free country dissension within pro-liberation mainstream power base became conspicuous between left-of-center leadership and simmering far left young radicals. Sirajul Alam Khan with enigmatic political shadow, allegedly having past liaison with external power which started in 1962 in forming ‘Nucleus’, emerged as the leader of left radicals. In 60s, Ayub Khan, the martial law dictator of Pakistan, under the influence of his nationalist, young and vibrant Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was rapidly inclining toward China and other socialist countries for cooperation and national development. USA wanted to punish this misdemeanor of old ally by fueling political unrest in Pakistan, with main focus in East Pakistan. Political facts and equations logically suggest that ‘Nucleus’ was the proliferation of that American strategy and was created under supervision of CIA. In 1972 the congregation of the large mainstream renegades led by Khan formed military alliance with existing far left extremists and far right collaborators of Pakistan and declared armed struggle against the nascent government. The government was overwhelmed by the magnitude of national reconstruction and significantly weakened by the wave of conspiracy, corruption, betrayal of bureaucrats and explosive situation in the army. ‘Red to oppose red’ adopting this theory ‘Gano Bahini’ the armed wing of Khan later worked as a tool to kill indiscriminately freedom fighters in Bangladesh army through series of mutiny and coup d’état.
Political government’s one of the most fatal errors was to reinstate civil and military bureaucrats repatriated from Pakistan. In Pakistan, bureaucracy is groomed and honed as a sophisticated tool to kill democracy and as a vehicle of military rule. Military staffs are trained to grab state power and perpetuate martial law. Soon all the important top slots of the civil services were filled up by the repatriated bureaucrats. By the end of 1973, the picture of the Bangladesh Army became utterly dreadful. With the reinstatement of about 20,000 repatriated army in every layer of our armed forces, the poorly trained military recruits of liberation war became struck minority, isolated and misguided. The rumor mill started churning inflammable rumors in army barracks on issues like privileged Rakkhi Bahini and neglected army, Islam replaced by secularism and Hinduism, India is plundering natural resources, etc.
Within government growing influence of conservative rightists and distance with patriotic leaders of liberation war was another indicator that Government was plunging into the web of conspiracy. As the events were spiraling out of control, in desperation Government formed BAKSAL with unanimous participation of pro-liberation political forces and other professional organizations. Under BAKSAL, government interfered into democratic rights of the opposition forces and clamped control over press and publication. Kissinger’s infamous definition about Bangladesh as ‘A bottomless basket’ became sacred mantra to the opposition forces to turn public opinion toxic against the government.
Project was finalized to topple political government. Military would lead the team with famous sector commander of liberation war, after liberation superseded by a junior officer for prestige army chief position, General Zia would be behind-the-scene moral guardian of the operation. Colonel Rashid with right wing Awami League leader and a close confidant of Mujib, Mushtaq would spearhead execution of the project. In the wee hours, considered to be the sacred time to the Muslim faithfuls, on 15th August 1975 Bangladesh military achieved success through unprecedented mayhem and reached President’s palace ‘Bangabhaban’ wading through blood of revered leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and members of his family including handicapped brother, women and child. An unsettling chapter of post-war politics closed to open a new chapter in the dark of the night.
Zia emerged on the center stage and took control of leash of power soon to change the course of politics. He legalized 15th August massacre through constitutional indemnity. Then he changed thousand years old identity of the nation from ‘Bangalee’ to ‘Bangladeshi’. He rehabilitated faith based Islamic politics and welcomed back all the Islamic leaders from exile. He swore to make politics difficult for the politicians. Instant success made him an instant leader as Saudi Arabia and other gulf emirates, Pakistan and China recognized Bangladesh and opened the floodgate of monetary and logistic help for a brand new political start. Ultra left communists and ultra right faith merchants gathered around Zia in the march towards a new political future. Bangladesh Nationalist party BNP was born. Zia has long gone physically and his family has taken over the reign of BNP. Various military rule often stages fresh comeback to power and is always paused by violent popular resistance. But the obstinate enunciation of Zia still resonates in the air as politics is becoming more and more difficult and inaccessible to public.
In the present context, third stake holder of state governance, Bangladesh army has already organized couple of spectacular stage show bringing two leaders of the main feuding parties for photo session followed by exchange of scanty pleasantries. On each occasion ivory-tower intellectuals and talk-show savvy civil society epitomized joint smile of two ladies and sang chorus in unison ‘our democracy sways, spring is not far behind’. In reality, democracy crawls for life in the political wilderness of Bangladesh while third party is busy proving the banality of smiles and in-efficacious democracy.
Manirul Islam is a freelancer, writes from Toronto, Canada.
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