Bangabandhu : Disparity and our Independence17 March 2020
Mohammad Ali Miah :
Bangabandhu's 6-Point survival demand served as a clue to achieve our cherished goal. The ideals of the born spirited leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was my guiding force to be actively engaged in our Great Freedom Struggle. With that end in view and inspired by Bangabandhu's 6-Point Demand, also called our 'Survival Demand', set out just a year before I joined the Pakistan Air Force on 9th October, 1967 in PAF base Korangi Creek near Karachi. We were 15 recruits from the then East Pakistan and 70 recruits from West Pakistan. I could not find any logic to support this dissimilar figure. Further, having no fully fledged Training Center in East Pakistan we had to turn to the PAF, most sophisticated training establishment in West Pakistan where foreign Elite Forces members were also trained. In the same way, number of major strategically important military establishments were set up mainly in the western wing of Pakistan. Such picture of inequality justified anybody to be strongly critical and hence struggle for realization of Bangabandhu's 6-Point demand, a life line existence agenda for our nation. This was still fresh in my memory and so, parallel to my training I was closely observing the differences, the Pakistani rulers created in Defence Sector which was impossible to know from civil side.
Furthermore, though Pakistan Air Force composed of multilingual service personnel, the PAF language was English and proper use of it was mandatory for all activities of the Air Force. But the Pakistanis were in the mentality of enjoying undue privileges and having superiority complex, so they spoke, at their sweet will, in their native language ignoring standing Air Force rules. On the contrary, they took it as offence if we would have at all done the same and some when shamelessly jeered at our Bengali language, they appeared to be lingual dominant too over us and followed their founding leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah who unilaterally attempted in vain to force 'Urdu' upon the Bengalis on emergence of Pakistan. Bengal's undisputed leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, starting from Pakistan National Assembly up to the streets movements strongly opposed the discriminatory attitude of Pakistani rulers.
Bangabandhu's Co-Fighter valiant martyr Sgt. Zahurul Haque was my General Service Training Instructor in Pakistan Air Force. Known as the strictest Instructor in the Air Base Training Center Sgt. Zahurul Haque never spoke in any other language except English. Rarely but spiritedly he stressed and cautioned while whispered to us (Bengalees) in Bengali "You cow thieves! have you come here (West Pakistan) to cut horse grass ! Wake up, work hard ! It will pay you one day". We could hardly comprehend what he actually meant by that forceful unpredictable remark. Till then we knew him only as our GST Instructor and nothing beyond. Our seniors sometimes hinted us cautiously that he (Sgt. Zahurul Haque) was highly intelligent with intellectual abilities personality and derived patriotic, revolutionary ideals from the leader of the first magnitude Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Ironically patriots were difficult to be identified in Defence forces particularly because of strict disciplined atmosphere. Sgt. Zahurul Haque was one of those who fought on a secret mission to uphold Bangabandhu's thoughts and ideas. So-called 'Agartala Conspiracy Case' was a concrete example of close association between Bangabandhu and Sgt. Zahurul Haque. Both of them were being farcically court martialed in Dhaka Cantonment. It was sheer irony of fate that Sgt. Zahurul Haque was brutally and cowardly killed by Pak Army security guard. Bangabandhu lost a close comrade and we, Bengali service personnel, an undaunted soldier. We, Bengali batch mates being his immediate trainees, were deeply shocked at the premature death of the valiant Freedom Fighter. He envisaged a struggle for freedom. His unbound love and dedication to our cause inspired highly the Bengali Defence personnel in particular. His martyrdom incited the ongoing unprecedented movement in 1969 vigorously in East Pakistan that ultimately resulted in an unconditional release of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the Pak Army custody. I felt morally obligated to materialize the ideology of the Supreme Commander of the Freedom Struggle, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his lieutenant Sgt. Zahurul Haque. It was an enormous task associated with high risks specially being in Pakistan Defence Services.
At the outset, I decided to confront the Pakistanis intelligently. So I aimed to supersede them by doing best result in the 3-years and 3-months long training course. Accordingly I concentrated fully to the laid down academic curriculum of the PAF I raining Institute. I worked very hard and at long last, was crowned with PAF 'All-Round-Best' award for my extraordinary performance which got wide coverage by Pakistan Media in January, 1971. This was a big slap in their face and caused the jealous Pakistani fellows heart-burning. Thus I achieved my first target that motivated me highly to advance step by step for a foreseeable struggle. Mentionable, in the meantime in 1968 I sat for an Inter Service test for a branch change over to GDP (General Duty Pilot) of Pakistan Air Force. There was a political question which I also answered politically. It asked me to write something about the then President Ayub Khan's so-called 'Decade of Reforms'. I answered that no noticeable result of reforms was found anywhere in East Pakistan. So I was sorry to write anything, which was inaccurate. I sensed that such a UN awaited answer disappointed the exam board; As a result, I was dropped. That was how awfully we were treated by the Pakistan authority. Similarly, military ruler Ayub Khan wrote an autobiography named 'Friend not Master' where Bangabandhu's ideal and visionary political views indispensible for integration of Pakistan, his political leadership identity in Pakistan political arena were not properly reflected. It was widely contradictory and farcical in this context, nothing but a bid to woo the people of East Pakistan. The military dictator knew well that without focusing on Bangabandhu befittingly, true picture of the then East Pakistan could not be properly projected in any way. This is one more number added to serial discrimination exercised by the Pakistani ruling class.
Difference in working area was another contradictory matter. On recruitment the freshers were allotted different trades after psychological test by a specialist detailed by PAF. There also existed gross irregularities in trade distribution again with Bengali recruits. Besides, after training course completion, on posting to different Air Bases, nepotism favoritism and language played a big role. Good postings were decidedly kept for our Pakistani big brothers (!) because of unequal salaries (Wages differences). A West Pakistani posted to East wing was entitled 'an East Pakistan allowance', but an East Pakistani (Bengali) service man posted to the West wing was deprived of legitimate money. Moreover, in the working place, good jobs and key posts, promotions used to be held by West Pakistani personnel. Reason was that they enjoyed unwritten privileges, priorities, preferences over the Bengalis due to double-standard state policy of Pakistan.
Defence of strategically important East Pakistan (Bangladesh), mainly due to 1100 miles territorial distance from West Pakistan worried Bangabandhu from the very emergence of Pakistan. Sovereignty and territorial integrity might be threatened----was his future thinking. So he envisaged for a strong defense of the land. But Pakistani rulers from the very inception of the state started behaving step-brotherly with the people of East Pakistan and so imposed colonial rules policy. They were least interested about the existence of the Eastern Province. Bangabandhu was the son of this soil, hence knew the characteristic of the land and its people better than any contemporary leader. His foresight proved true.
Mentionable, in the wake of Indo-Pak war in 1965, China supplied Pakistan with sophisticated Mig-19 Fighter planes and relevant equipments to modernize their Air Defence System.
As per treaty, because of strategic importance those Fighter Planes were supposed to be deployed in East Pakistan. Instead of doing so, they based them in their part West Pakistan. On the contrary, they kept some US supplied old model Sabre Jet F-86 series aircrafts abandoned by US Air Force long ago in East Pakistan. As a result, Air Defence System of East Pakistan remained fragile and militarily unprotected. Further mentionable, 17 days lndo-Pak war in 1965 taught the people of East Pakistan a useful lesson. Because East Pakistan remained militarily un protected. At that time India could attack and comfortably take over East Pakistan. No military power in the province could avert that attack. People of East Pakistan realized how weak the overall Defence system of the country was and in what a vulnerable position the country was in the wake of an aggression. We were left just on the mercy of others. In fact, major strategically important military establishments were set up mainly in the western wing of Pakistan. More than half of the Pakistan's budget was spent on Defence sector and the lion-share of that expenditure had to be borne by the people of East Pakistan. These unjust acts of the Pak ruling class triggered tremendous rage and protest particularly among Bengali Defence personnel. Any sort of political activities was strictly prohibited in Defence Service. But our demands were properly raised by Bengal's undisputed leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through the historical 6-Point Formula. That is why Bengali service personnel unanimously supported it and our Bengali ex-service men rallied round the Great Leader in the mass-upsurge of 1969.
'Landslide Election Victory' for Awami League in 1970 led by Bangabandhu inspired us highly to see him as the constitutionally mandated head of the Government of Pakistan. Ex-Pak Air Chief Air Marshall Asgar Khan was in favour of peaceful transfer of power to the leader of the Elected Representatives of the majority party Awami League, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But the conspiracy of the power greedy Pakistan's ruling class changed the political scenery. That meant, they were in no case in intention to hand over power to the Bengali leadership.
I was in PAF Air Base, Drigh Road in Karachi. On 25th March, 1971 in the evening I was watching Tv as General Yahya Khan, in an address to the nation, egoistic and revengeful, blamed blatantly Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the current volatile situation in Pakistan. I still remember a sentence he uttered "This crime cannot go unpunished.” On that black night his Army massacred the innocent Bengalis in the name of Operation Search Light' which meant Bengalis ethnic cleansing operation. PAF C-130 plane was being loaded with Pak Army, arms and ammunitions flying to East Pakistan just next to our barrack. Next morning we saw in the front page of the Pakistani Daily the photo of traditionally dressed Bangabandhu sitting on a sofa in Karachi Airport lounge with security personnel around. His destination was not immediately known to us. His 'Declaration of Independence' reached indirectly and very secretly to our ears later. The news overwhelmed us with joy but made us anxious for the thorny road ahead. I took seriously the account of long 24 consecutive years of subjugation, discrimination, deprivation of Bengalis by Pakistan ruling class and their vested interests in national, social, cultural, defence - sectors reasoned me to fiercely fight the oppressors keeping in sight the ultimate directives of spirited Bangabandhu for Independence.
Next we Bengali service personnel were disarmed and remained stranded in the camp. No news of Bangabandhu's whereabouts any more, no news of Freedom loving people of Bangladesh. But we well comprehended the directives he gave on his 7th March, 1971 fiery speech. This was my guiding force to be actively engaged in Bangladesh Liberation War. To flee from strictly restricted Pak military area was highly life-risky. But my heartfelt desirers overpowered all the upcoming dangers and finally I reached Agartala, Tripura in friendly India with a brief stopover in Dhaka.
Temporary Mujib Nagar Government headed by Bangabandhu under acting President Syed Nazrul Islam functioned in co-operation with liberation and friendly forces. In military holding camp not very far from 'Joy Bangla' Bhaban in Tripura state of India, we built a tinshed mosque with Bamboos and prayed five times for safe return of Bangabandhu from the Pak captivity. Our National Anthem 'Amar Sonar Bangla Ami Tomay Valobashi' pleased us profoundly and known-to-all spirited national slogan 'Joy Bangla' encouraged us enormously amid so much war sufferings. We started our fight against Pakistani Occupation Army with homemade bamboo sticks in Suhrawardy Udyan, ended with modern arms also in Suhrawardy Udyan.
I fought valiantly in Sector-2 under Major Khaled Musharraf and Sector-3 under Major K.M Shafiullah. I was present in the Pak occupation Army's surrender occasion on 16 December 1971. On home coming day of Bangabandhu I along with BAF contingent were on security duty when the Royal Air Force Aircraft 'Comet' decorated with Bangladesh and British flags carrying Bangabandhu landed smoothly in old Dhaka Air Port. We cordoned off the Aircraft for security purpose. He stepped in the free soil of his beloved Bangladesh magnanimously and waved hands with greetings to the sea of people.
In clarion call of Bangabandhu, we, Freedom Fighters laid down our arms to him, the Supreme Commander of the Bangladesh Liberation Forces.
Bangabandhu's first visit to Bangladesh Air Force Base Bashar was unique. We presented him military reception with Guard of Honour. He inspected the smartly turned out parade and took salute. He went round and looked at the displayed Aircrafts and equipment left damaged and unserviceable by Pakistan occupation army which we repaired locally and made serviceable. He praised highly the BAF Freedom Fighters' contribution to Great Liberation War. Then he spoke briefly to us and asked us to be professionally skilled to build a modern Air Force for our Sovereign Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu's martyrdom --- the world's most heinous, brutal and hateful assassination of the Great Architect of Independence, the Father of the Nation along with almost his entire family in August 15, 1975 was an irreparable loss for the nation beyond measure. It was blatantly a major direct blow for the Freedom Fighters particularly.
From deep-rooted rage and bitter hatred for the evil-doers I left the country for a long time. In protest, even I declined to accept my due Freedom Fighters certificate straight away while going out of Bangladesh. I sought political asylum in Germany. Incidentally, a news item drew my attention. There, the then German Chancellor, Nobel Laureate Willy Brandt commented "After the assasination of Mujib, the Bengalis can no more be trusted, those who killed Mujib, they can do any nefarious act".
Another newspaper further commented "Sheikh Mujib can be compared with Luee the 14th. People were so dear to him that like Luee he can claim myself state." Besides I had been in Switzerland, Norway, Greece. Wherever I conversed with foreign nationals I was astonished to experience how highly they esteemed the un paralleled Great Leader of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He earned much reputation for the country and brightened the image of Bangladesh internationally. His assassination, a nefarious act of cruelty in world history, was widely and bitterly condemned by international community. Ever since I felt deeply what a Great National Leader we lost! Country's image was also tarnished to a great extent in international arena because of this tragic incident.
Bangabandhu, Bangladesh and Great Liberation War are interrelated. Upcoming Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu will revive the cherished ideals of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and remain deep-rooted in the hearts of his people for ever.
(The writer is Ex-Corporal, Bangladesh Air Force and Freedom Fighter)