Much Ado About Nothing

Maskwaith Ahsan

Maskwaith Ahsan

The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

I am almost as old as Bangladesh. While I may not be considered young anymore, my country is still a child. Thirty-nine years is nothing but the age of teething in the life of nations. The country still needs to be handled with care. Before its birth, the people of then East Pakistan had dreamt of a secular and equal society with a passion that drove them to walk on the fiery path of freedom. Bengalis had to fight back the linguistic and cultural aggression of Pakistan, and keep up the struggle against discrimination and inequity.

Sher-e-Bangla, Hussain Shaheed Suharwardi, Maulana Bhashani and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, among many others, fearlessly led the march towards independence. Even though Bangabandhu may appear to some as a revolutionary leader, he initially tried all democratic ways to end the sufferings of Bengalis. But when the rulers of then West Pakistan stubbornly refused to respect his people’s will, Bangabandhu had to go for independence.

Like Gandhi and Jinnah, Bangabandhu changed the course of South Asian history by giving the people of Bangladesh the right to chart their own destinies. But whereas in India Gandhi is considered above any political reproach and in Pakistan Jinnah gets equal respect from all political quarters, the same cannot be said of Bangladesh where honoring Bangabandhu depends solely on political egos. Deep political polarization questions even his patriotism, let alone popularity.

In India not even the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party dares to question or criticize Gandhi or no Congress politician claims superiority of Nehru over Gandhi. In Pakistan even the People’s Party cannot pull off comparing Bhutto to Jinnah. Yet, in Bangladesh efforts to denounce the Father of the Nation by aimless comparison with Ziaur Rahman continue unabated.

On March 7, 1971, Sheikh Mujib addressed the nation in which he gave the final signal for an armed struggle for freedom. The declaration of independence was made a couple of weeks later on March 26, 1971, but that was just a formality. The people of Bangladesh already knew in their hearts what was announced that day.

As a journalist I have worked with several veteran broadcasters and radio engineers who were instrumental in establishing the then clandestine radio station, Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, in 1971. These broadcasters and engineers have repeatedly confirmed publicly, and to me personally, that then Major Ziaur Rahman was invited by broadcaster Belal Mohammad to read out the declaration of independence as a mark of the army’s support to our freedom fight. On March 27, 1971, veteran broadcaster Abdullah Al Farooq witnessed Ziaur Rahman reading out of the same declaration on behalf of Sheikh Mujib. History will always laugh at the immature attempts of BNP to portray that reading of the declaration by Ziaur Rahman as an act of independent or individual announcement of freedom. After all Ziaur Rahman was an unknown voice on the airwaves at that time; he fought the war of independence as a sector commander under the military leadership of General Osmani and the civilian leadership of Sheikh Mujib.

After the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Bangladesh became mired in conspiracies, coups and counter coups. To hold the fledgling nation together, a socialist leader, Colonel Taher, released Ziaur Rahman from house arrest and convinced him to take over the reins of the country. (The fact that Colonel Taher was later court martialled and sentenced to death under the very leadership of Ziaur Rahman is a story for another time.) As Sheikh Mujibur Rahman already had the status of being the Father of the Nation, attempts by BNP to snatch that status is nothing but futile and divisive. If such an accolade is necessary for the continuation of hereditary politics then perhaps Ziaur Rahman can be honored as the Brother of the Nation. BNP supporters and their Jamaat friends would do really well to learn from their Indian and Pakistani counterparts that giving respect to the Father of the Nation is synonymous to paying tribute to the birth of a nation.

When Ziaur Rahman himself never claimed the Kalurghat radio address as his own declaration, should the BNP do so? And then there is also the audio evidence of him reading out of the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujib. Throughout his years in power, Ziaur Rahman remained silent about Sheikh Mujib, possibly because he had to rehabilitate Mujib’s killers and ‘71war criminals. But he never publicly downplayed Mujib. Yet, BNP MPs have shown no qualms about using uncouth language against the Father of the Nation. The Awami League MPs are no better, using their brute-majority voice in using similar politically incorrect words against Ziaur Rahman. This quarrel has all the echoes of the Lilliputian-Blefuscudian conflict, with enough dough for endless media entertainment.

How come we never see this ferocity of political competition when it comes to ensuring basic necessities like food, shelter, security and human rights? As a result the party in power is left alone to tackle such issues in whatever little time it can spare from this continuous sparring for future votes. This strategy works well for every opposition party: it ensures victory in next elections. What these political parties need to understand is that such an-eye-for-an-eye political tactics have lost their adrenalin factor for the masses, because while they bicker for power, the voters of Bangladesh watch from the sidelines as their loved ones die unattended in government hospitals or their kids fall prey to malnutrition, fall victim to university gun fights, extrajudicial killings, militancy and so on.

Bangladesh recently managed to get the western nod of approval in tackling militancy, but the ongoing extrajudicial killings and unrest in Chittagong Hill Tracts will attract even less investment and earn the country a bad image. But then who cares about image. Dhaka has been assessed as the worst city in the world after Harare in terms of insecurity and traffic woes.

Ideally, our political leader should be spending sleepless nights over such multi-edged crisis, instead of appearing in news clips as wrestlers or soap opera villains. Countries of the same age as Bangladesh have earned at least a middle income status. In today’s modern world, national issues like the honor of the Father of the Nation and freedom fighters or agendas like war criminal trials are tackled by competent legal systems, and not by making a mockery of them.

BNP should maybe think ten times before abusing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman or supporting war criminals and militant forces. And Awami League, as a veteran political party, should be more careful about defaming Ziaur Rahman. Both parties are now at the crossroads where they need to decide how they want to be remembered: with respect or with hatred. Hasn’t enough time been wasted for Sheikh Hasina and Khalida Zia to respond to the mass appeal and stop this ‘much ado about nothing’.


The writer is an Online Journalist and Offline Media Educator.

3 Responses to “Much Ado About Nothing”

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    Khondkar A Saleque

    I do not think BAL and BNP can not compared apple to apple. BAL is is genuine political party having dedicated grassroot basis. BNP on the otherhand is the conglomerate of opportunists – winter birds seeking honey of power. BAL will suvive the test of time but BNP will disintegrate if can not get back to state power sooon. BNP or any other opposition can not harm BAL. But BAL itself is its greatest enemy. Only excesses and mismanagement of state affairs by Hasina and Co can only bring down fall of BAL led Mahajote government.

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    Abdul Qader

    I must congratulate Maskawaith for such a factual article. The way you exposed the “root of all evils” for Bangladesh is brilliant. I am definitely older than you and have participated in the Liberation war and recorded all the facts during that 9 months struggle in my personal diary. I feel obligated to write something to support your facts, hence the comments:

    1.Bangladesh came into being in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The people of Bangladesh fought the war in the name of Sheikh Mujib and there was no other name associated with Bangladesh, rather Sheikh Mujib and Bangladesh converged to an inseparable entity. Yes, Zia’s speech on 27th March inspired and furthered our spirit that our armed forces are also with us, but that was never a focal point. In fact, we were distributing leaflets on 26th and 27th March about Bangabandhu’s declaration of Independence in our area while Zia’s speech reinforced that. I must say that the leaflet was apparently originated from Dhaka and as if Mujib was leading the liberation fight – which seemed purposely done to keep peoples’ spirit high. So, to me Zia’s speech was a sort of an addition of a canal to the main stream river. There is no doubt that the liberation war would have gone ahead as it did, without Zia’s speech. The fact that after that Kalurghat station went off, that matter was not in peoples’ mind for the rest of 9 months war not even while the liberation war started taking shape. No where in my diary Zia’s declaration is mentioned nor it was a topic in Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra – which contradicts BNP’s imaginary uplifting of this matter. If it were so important as BNP is portraying then it would have been the main topic all over. On the other hand, Zia never claimed himself as the “Declarer of Independence” nor even pointed any importance to it. I am sure Zia would have stopped BNP to do what they are doing now on this matter. We should understand BNP is doing for their own vested benefit – not for uplifting Zia’s image. They do not understand by doing so they are actually bringing him down. They should rather keep him as a leading Freedom Fighter, good administrator and true believer of bringing goodness to the people of Bangladesh.

    2.I do not understand who questions about patriotism of Bangabandhu? There may have some arguments about his administrative capacity or the undertaken paths of implementing his visionary plans, but no way about his patriotism. This is absurd. I saw him face to face and listened to his talks – in addition to formal speeches. I can’t believe I have seen any other Bangalee of more patriotic than Bangabandhu. If anyone points to that that is rubbish.

    3.I am totally in line with your conclusive remarks or advices you put forward for the two leaders. They should concentrate on the peoples/country’s need rather than spending time on how to bring down the only two patriotic leaders the country have had so far. I think BAL has more on the plate than BNP now as BAL has the opportunity. Really Hasina has now the platform to do something for the country for the betterment of which her Father dedicated his whole life. She should study more on how visionary plans to be implemented in all sectors – a) Get ideas from all over and identify which are needed for short term and long term benefits – we need both types; b) No village politics and no soft corner for any sort of corruptions, big or small (Hasina must learn from all mistakes of the past governments. If I were Hasina, I would have kept Rehana out of the govt and Joy as only as an outside Adviser – no matter how talented they are), c) Overhaul the govt offices to get rid off all partisan politics (BAL is now doing the same as BNP did – so tit for tat will continue for ever and right talented people will not be rewarded, which will hinder any govt to succeed in doing good for the country), d) Implement digital Bangladesh taking it seriously – more than a political slogan. (With Internet & digital access the rural people can do business internationally – this could be a new promising sector for Bangladesh), f) Get expatriate Bangladeshis attracted to contribute in all sectors

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    mohammed giashuddin

    dear writer maskwaith, commentators saleque and quader, i do appreciate you partially, not fully for opinions, comments on and comparison between mujib and zia as you didn’t show your blind support of any the duo-leaders. but i can’t stop chuckling or laughter as some people, BAL leaders or its blind fans start portraying SHEIK MUJIB as a demigod or a giant icon comparable to GANDHI, JINNAH, NEHRU, SUHRAWARDY, MANDELA, NASER, AND SO ON. when i see them attaching accolades, The FON, mohamanob etc with SHEIK i feel qualms and when people want to enforce someone to give recognition to sheik mujib hifi insignia i feel really disgusted and get and indignated. love and respect is the matter of earning and spontaneous response. that recognition of love and respect can neither be a legal matter nor a political agenda. everyone would react and respond based on how s/he have seen and learned and then analysed the events depending on one’s background and mindset. i do disagree with you guys how you depicted your pictures about mujib and zia. During, by the way,the tumultous time of 1970, 71 upto march, i was a dhaka college and thereafter dhaka medical college student. i have seen most of and participated in many historic events like attending the land-mark meetings and missiles. i was a bigger, sincere and die-hard fan of sheik mujib. but all on a sudden as if, i am revealed of the true man and the myth of sheik mujib. as i found him a fake leader, cheat and consummate liar. also i rienvented the nature of our nation, a hyperemotive nation, devoid of rationality and judgement. we are the nation like the ” pide-piper and the children of hamillon city” following the wrong leader, mesmerized by pipe or vocality. here i stop my ranting with the request to have look on the blog-link below. thanks.

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