Dr S A Malek
A person or a party may howl for democracy but that does not mean that they want it to be translated into reality. Hardly there is a person in BNP who does not shout on the roads for democracy, but how many of them do really mean it? These categories of people within BNP may include university teachers, engineers, physicians, renowned advocates. I do not say that all of them are bad people but their affinity for the party is so much that they talk honestly and sincerely while talking other issues but in case of Party affairs, they go out of their way and do not hesitate to distort facts. A person like Prof. Emajuddin does not feel embarrassed while praising Zia even going to the extent that he felt enthusiastic listening the voice of General Zia from the Kalurghat Betar Kendro which he considers to be the first declaration of independence. If I ask Prof. Emajuddin what right Zia had to declare the independence of Bangladesh while he had been serving as a loyal intelligent major in Pak Army even on 26 March, approaching Chittagong port to take delivery of the arms sent by the Pak Army. The arms were sent to be used against the people of Bangladesh. More than that, did Prof. Emajuddin not listen to what Major Zia told exactly in his re-declaration i.e., he declared independence of Bangladesh in favour of his great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. More important is the question what was the role of General Zia during the 23 years of struggle for regional autonomy to bring an end to the disparity that existed between the two wings of Pakistan- the East and the West?
Thirdly, what role Zia did play during the Agaratala Conspiracy Case when some Bangalees serving the Pak army inspired by SK Mujib tried to revolt. He was then a very loyal soldier to the Pakistan Army.
The question that arises what could be the reason for the change of his mind to take the side of the freedom fighters. Zia probably guessed it well that if he did side the Pak army his life was not safe even if he had been loyal to them. Probably he thought, since Bangabandhu had been arrested and the Awami League leaders had gone out of the country General Zia might get a chance to be the hero of the war of independence if he declared the independence in his own way. The whole world would come to know his voice and he might be regarded as the main hero. So when the local Awami League leaders asked him for such a declaration he was over enthusiastic and agreed.
The Awami League leaders told him to read the declaration already made by Bangabandhu in the early hours of March 26, but he declared it in his own name announcing him as the head of the army and the state. But he had to correct it and declare the independence of Bangladesh in the name of Bangabandhu admitting him as his great leader. In fact that was a hoax in the sense that no government had been formed then, no army was there. Thus Zia blackmailed the entire world by declaring himself as the army chief and head of the government obviously he had to correct it immediately. Probably he did it in connivance with the Pak army and his international masters. The declaration of independence by major Zia was probably a part of conspiracy. So that Mujib Nagar Government had to face a challenge. Zia probably thought that the elected representatives of Awami League leaving the country would not be able to come back again and with the blessing of his international masters and Pakistan army, he would be able to sustain his position as a declarer of independence and president of Bangladesh. In case if that did happen and Zia could remain in his position even for a fortnight before the formation of the Mujib Nagar Government, Pakistan would have recognized it. In that case, the government of India could have been in a fix to recognize Mujib Nagar Government as smoothly as they did.
In fact, if that government of Zia could patch up with Pakistan the government of India would have under duress to lend support to the Mujib Nagar Government. Pakistan could get an advantage in the international lobby to defend its wrongdoing. Consequently there could be a so-called independent Bangladesh under G. Zia with immediate support from Pakistan. As a result Pakistan would have tried to convince the world outside that East Pakistan was not willing to be separated from Pakistan. It was India that really trying to dismember Pakistan for its own interest.
Might be that if Zia could continue for a fortnight as President, the Pak occupation forces could stop its atrocities creating a so-called congenial atmosphere. Then the real war of liberation could be at a stake and Pakistan could be a reality. The government formed by the elected representatives i.e., Mujib Nagar Government had to face a serious challenge. The patch up conspiracy hatched by Khondaker Mostaq during the war of liberation was probably the second phase of this conspiracy.
Since 1975 following the killing of Bangabandhu, the way the BNP tried to establish General Zia as the number one leader of the war of liberation humiliating Bangabandhu as a leader who surrendered to Pakistan government willingly. They even did not hesitate to preach that Bangabandhu did not declare independence at all and his arrest was pre-planned. Rather on the basis of Kalurghat Betar Kendro’s first declaration by Zia, they desperately tried to establish that Zia did really declare independence of Bangladesh. They concealed the second declaration of General Zia. If Zia had the right to declare independence, then why did he correct his first declaration in which he declared him as president and chief of the army? They have been trying to establish that General Zia is the key person of our war of liberation for the last three and half decades with no result. And they cannot do it even if they try for thousands years. Sheikh Mujib’s position has been permanently ascertained by history. None could challenge it.
The problem of Awami League is that it has to do politics with such a political party that does not care for truth and reality. So in response to the ugly politics of BNP Awami League has to act sometimes in a way that does not seem to be appropriate for it. Even Sheikh Hasina has to reply to their blatant lies and irresponsible remarks sometimes in a language that does not suit her. Many people think that the two major political parties and their leaders are at daggers drawn. And this is probably the reason why democracy has not yet been established in Bangladesh. But the fact is, the birth of BNP as a political party did occur following the assassination of Bangabandhu, the father of the nation and chief of Awami League. The founder of BNP i.e., General Zia is thought to be the mastermind of 15th August killing. In fact if Bangabandhu was not killed that way there would have been no possibility for Zia to get to power. And if General Zia was not in power that way, there could be no political party named BNP. So the claim of Awami League that the birth of BNP was in the cantonment seems to be correct. How could a party that born out of army intervention could deliver democracy?
On the other hand Awami League as a political party had to fight all through the long 23 years against the Pakistani military rule for democratic rights of the suppressed and oppressed people of East Pakistan. So Awami League is traditionally a democratic party. There has been only one aberration in the whole of the history of Awami League i.e., formation of only one party through the 4th amendment. The reason is known to all. Based on the 1972 constitution and 1973 election Bangabandhu formed the first parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh with full freedom to its people. But the enemies of independence did create such a deplorable situation that Bangabandhu had to act in a stringent way just to protect the independence and sovereignty of the country. He categorically told in parliamentary committee that the measures had been taken for a short time and he would reverse it when the situation got back to normalcy. Other than this Bangladesh Awami League did never deviate from the principle of democracy.
So the conflict between Awami League and BNP is the conflict of ideology. The BNP leaders may cry for democracy as loud as they can, but democracy would not advance an inch if they do not radically change their behavior and practice democracy in real sense. The core problem is such that Awami League has to react sometimes in an undemocratic way to counteract terrorism unleashed by BNP. The visible example is the January 2014 election. BNP-Jamaat did not participate in it. Rather BNP along with its militant ally Jamaat resorted to such rowdy violence that the government had to take stringent measures which could not be termed as democratic.
Dr S A Malek is former political adviser to prime minister and a member of parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad, and a columnist