Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib & Bangladesh26 March 2021
Mohammad Amjad Hossain :
Bangladesh is a relatively young country on the world map, but its socio-political and cultural development date back a few hundred years. The emergence of Bangladesh on the world map was very painful. The struggle and sacrifices of millions of people gave birth to a new nation on 16th December1971 with the surrendering of the Pakistani occupation forces.
Since Bangladesh was part of Pakistan from 1947 geographically, economically, politically and culturally were different. The significant fact was that there was no direct land communication between East and West Pakistan. There was a popular belief that where West Pakistan ends the Middle East begins, but where East Pakistan ends, South Asia starts. Language movement of 1952 in East Pakistan to have Bengali as state language along with Urdu knocked at the foundation of Pakistan.
Secretary of Awami League Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced a six-point formula for all provinces of Pakistan at Lahore conference on 5 February of 1966 which became known as Magna Carter caused serious problems for General Ayub khan who did not accept in principle. Apart from this issue General Ayub Khan also has been confronted for signing the Tashkent agreement because Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, immediate past Foreign Minister of Ayub Khan, has begun a campaign against General Ayub Khan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was against the Tashkent agreement but the Tashkent declaration that was signed on 10 January of 1966 resolved the dispute of Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.
Instead, President Ayub Khan opened another front by instituting the Agartala conspiracy case against 35 personalities, including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 9 May of 1968. The Ministry of Interior of Pakistan declared through a press -note on 6 January ,1968 that the government had detected in December of 1967 a conspiracy detrimental to the national interest of Pakistan. The Press -note disclosed the news of the arrest of 8 persons, including two CSP officers and alleged that the persons seized were involved in attempting to separate East Pakistan through armed revolt. On 18 January of 1968 another declaration which implicated Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in conspiracy. A special tribunal was formed which had begun the case on 19 June of 1968. The case was entitled State versus Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which began inside Dhaka cantonment. The Agartala conspiracy case was set-aside by a popular movement by students of East Pakistan in association with Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, NAP leader. Unpresented mood of the students against Agartala conspiracy case of the government met with burning of the State guest house where chairman of the Tribunal, Justice S.A Rahman and Manzur Qader, chief Lawyer of the government evacuated and left since files were burnt to ashes. Having seen the crisis, the Government of General Ayub Khan withdrew the case and released unconditionally all the accused, including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On 23 February in 1969 a grand reception was accorded to all accused including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Paltan Maidan who was vested with the title of Bangabandhu.
Begum Fazilautunnesa, wife of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, through Mr. Ekramul Haq, senior Information officer who was from Faridpur and first President of student union at Iqbal hall to convey to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the decision of Begum Mujib not to attend conference on parole. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman accepted the decision of the wife. However, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman accompanied by 16 members, including three lawyers attended a round table conference at Rawalpindi president house on 26 February, 1969 being a freed man. Round - table conference did not succeed. Self-imposed Field Marshal Ayub Khan resigned and handed over power to General Yahia Khan.
Having taken over the administration General Yahia Khan assured the nation that he would hand over the power to the people's representatives following holding the general election in the country as soon as possible. Against this background, a general election was held in erstwhile Pakistan on 7th December, 1970 by the military regime with a view to handing over power to the elected representatives.
Election was held on 7th December in 1970 by the military regime and Awami League won 167 seats out of 313 seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan while Awami League won landslide victory in East Pakistan. This writer cast vote in Islamabad in favor of Mr. A. R. S. Doha who was candidate of Awami League since I was working as Information officer in External Publicity wing of Ministry Information and National Affairs in Islamabad.
The dilly-dallying attitude adopted by General Yahia Khan in cooperation with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who secured 88 seats and turned out to be the second largest party in the National Assembly. Therefore, it would have been logically wise to hand over power to the party which received an overwhelming majority in the assembly. Having seen non-cooperation with the majority party Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Leader of majority party in National Assembly of Pakistan declared non-cooperation movement. The central government became worried to witness unprecedented response of the people in favor of the non-cooperation movement.
On 7th March in his historic speech Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave a clarion call to people and government employees to follow his instructions and declared that he would consider attending a session of the National Assembly only if four points are met. These were: lifting of martial law immediately; transfer of Power to the elected representatives; recall of the troops to their barracks and to hold an inquiry into the killings of civilians by the army. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman appealed to the people to remain vigilant and prepared with whatever materials they possess to fight to liberate the country and declared that this time the movement is meant for freedom. Having agreed to honor four points, General Yahia Khan abruptly dashed out of Dacca on 25 March, 1970 and leader of the majority political party in the Parliament Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and flown to Karachi on March 27,1970. It was clear that General Yahia Khan betrayed the people of East Pakistan. A war was imposed on the people of East Pakistan. The Bangladesh government in exile in India headed by Tajuddin Ahmad exerted pressure on India to intervene.
Perhaps the Indo-Soviet Treaty of friendship and cooperation, which was signed on 8 August 1971 in Moscow gave a moral boost to the Indian military strategists to take a decision for intervention. Indian armed forces joined with Mukti Bahini to fight against Pakistan marauding army. Pakistan army surrendered to the joint command of Mukti Bahini and Indian army on 16 December of 1971.Having been released from the prison Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with Dr. Kamal Hossain and his wife flew to London on 9 January,1972. He was received by Edward Heath, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at 10 Downing Street along with opposition leaders in the Parliament. This was unprecedented in diplomatic parlance because the United Kingdom did not recognize Bangladesh till then. Any way British Prime Minister, however, accorded another favor by offering Royal Airforce comet to fly Shaikh Mujibur Rahman and Dr. Kamal Hossain and his wife to Bangladesh via India. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in fact stopped over to Delhi on 10 January on the way to Dacca, capital of Bangladesh, where he said: the people of India are the best friends of my people. In fact, this had been the sentiment of the people of Bangladesh during the nine-month struggle for the people of Bangladesh. These had been really dark days for the people of Bangladesh. Therefore, India was seen as a messiah. A tremendous amount of goodwill was generated towards the people of India, which contributed practically to the shaping of the foreign policy.
The most significant achievement of the Awami League government headed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the withdrawal of Indian troops from the soil of Bangladesh by 15 March 1972 as a result of discussion between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, dispelling the misgivings created by Pakistan and other powers that Bangladesh would become a satellite of India. The presence of Indian troops on Bangladesh soil also caused delay in international recognition. Similarly, India did not like being projected as an imperialist power.
The rehabilitation of refugees from India, who had left Bangladesh during the war of liberation, the reconstruction of war-ravaged economy, the return of Bangladeshi stranded in Pakistan, the seeking for recognition from the world community, the repatriation of non-Bengalese, who declared their allegiance officially to Pakistan and holding of trial for the prisoner of war as war criminal remained on the priority list of the Awami League government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from 1972 to 1974.
The government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman initiated a diplomatic maneuver to seek recognition from different parts of the world. Special envoys like Mr. Atowar Rahman and Iqbal Atahar,former Pakistani diplomat, were dispatched to different capitals to explain the situation and to seek recognition. By 1974 Bangladesh had been recognized by all except a few states and earned respect for itself in the community of nations. This was reflected by the admission into membership of all international organizations and the unanimous recommendation of the security council in August 1974 for membership of the United Nations. The admission of Bangladesh to the United Nations on17 September 1974 was indeed a great day. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on 25 September, 1974 in Bengali which represents the majority population of Bangladesh.
(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat from Bangladesh and former President of Nova Toastmaster International Club of America, writes from Falls Church, Virginia).