The 21st June Verdict
That a division bench of the Bangladesh High Court passed a judgment on the 21st June (09) in re-fixing up a fact that is exclusively of the by gone days record of history of Bangladesh not known to be authentically challenged before in about four decades but occasionally by some loose talks of no importance. The bench is commendable for the pertinent fact that the case was settled just only in two months period after filing the petition in the backdrop of the well known facts that many more important and thousands of other more crucial cases have been remaining pending in the same system not for months or years but for decades without even coming in to the cause list!
Re-fixation of facts after 38 years
Despite the prerogative of the ‘independence’ of judiciary that we all should feel proud of, it is difficult to appreciate that a bench of the High Court must fix by itself fact of past history! Possibly more curious and astonishingly amazing was the part of the dictate that ordered that all relevant past records in the matter not conforming to the verdict must be forfeited from the market for sale, distribution channel, etc. and even removed from the archives of Bangladesh! One has to ponder seriously and probe into depth if such verdict of any court unreasonably interfering, arbitrarily re-fixing and passing order for deleting facts of past history inside the country but certainly not outside the geographical border are there in any civilized country professing and practicing open democracy in the state systems. And as such the verdict is undoubtedly certain to be challenged in the higher judiciary by some sensible and patriotic persons/ forces.
The Two Actors of 1971
Political leader Sheikh Mujib and Army man Zia for whom the verdict was given had been two important actors well acknowledged in the 1971 independence movement of Bangladesh. There were not and should not have been any rivalry in respect of their roles in 1971. They played roles not exactly the same but qualitatively different and yet supplementary and complementary to each other. Zia being a army person had been straight forward, rebelled against his own army men (Pakistan Army Command), overpowered them and took the stand that neither of his comrades (Bengali) dared to take arms in hand in actual fight in war fronts nor any political leader including Mujib who though prompted and inspired the people politically as a mass leader. Thus it was very logical and reasonable that in there life time in 1970s and early 1980s there had been little known rivalries, much less antagonism between the two giants. It rather turned a matter of curiosity that the next generation of both the genres have picked up the controversy after three decades in some points and issues that are of little material utility but almost useless so far as the nation faces many critical and rather life and death issues. One must wonder if some over enthusiasts of the ruling party thus by picking up the rather settled issue in somewhat childish way and imposing certain verdict on the nation that is only certain to create more chaos and instability in the country not for any tangible benefit of the country but for ulterior design and evil gains of the big neighbor, in particular.
The Major and the Big Wigs
In1971 Zia had been a Pakistan Army young serving major, but Mujib then a quite mature and elected political leader of the largest part of the independent Muslim State of Pakistan, what was then known as East Pakistan (historic East Bengal). Mujib’s rise to leadership owed primarily in the 1970 general election to alleged disparity between the two geographically isolated and the two regions separated 1000 miles away from each other. In fact, the general election results though had the semblance of unity of the two wings of Pakistan under the LFO (Legal Framework Order, 1970), two different parties won landslides in the two wings, the Pakistan People’s Party in West Pakistan and the Awami League in East Pakistan giving rise of two leaders Z A Bhutto in the West and Sheikh Mujib in the East. The Martial Law President of the Federal Pakistan fell in dilemma of the two leaders, apparently, in acrimony for power at the center in Islamabad. The war of words between the two pitched each day high and higher for ascending to the power, despite the fact that power ascendancy at the center was no issue in the LFO.
The LFO had just only provided for framing an acceptable and durable Constitution for Federal Pakistan in a limited period of 120 days following publication of the results of the 1970 general election, failing to do the only job the Assembly would automatically dissolve itself.
Flouting the LFO
How come that though the election was conducted under the provisions of the LFO for the only purpose of framing the Constitution, the Awami League leader Mujib, in particular, whether in open concert with the PPP scheming leader Bhutto and in likely connivance with Pakistan’s well known ‘number one enemy’, India, started to orchestrate for forcible power capture particularly in East Pakistan/ Bangladesh having had little or no care for the whole country that our worthy forefathers in 1940s willfully and democratically through fair polls created and established in high price of sacrifices in properties, wealth and lives lost in millions. Even so, people in East Pakistan seemed to prefer hand-over power of East Pakistan to Mujib, particularly, in midst of the marathon negotiations that went on between the Military President (Federal) Yahya, Mujib and Bhutto in Dhaka between the 15th to the 24th March 1971. Many people had this expectation for the fact that as many wished on the 7th March public speech of Mujib at the then Ramna Race Course that he would declare UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence of East Pakistan), but he did not do so except made a utterly confusing political rhetoric, EBARER SANGRM AMADER MUKTIR SANGRM, EBARER SANGRAM SWADHINATAR SANGRAM. Let me put on record here again that I myself then at my mid thirties teaching in a Government College in Dhaka (Dacca) was present there with deep interest and exclusively to listen from the horse’s mouth that the UDI would come out from his person but I heard nothing so to my wonder, amazement and also a bet lost for UDI to one of my Awami League friend and a provincial M.P., now late Safar Ali Mia Engineer, a financier of Mujib.
My own Recalling of Early 1971
The day of 25th March, so far as I could recall now after 38 years, had been a day of rumors and tense. I had waited at my 11 Holy Cross College Road Farm Gate IDE office until about 11 at night when I drove off on my self driven new car FIAT 600 D (Dhaka Ka 2906) bought from USA scholarship money savings to my official residence 5/G polytechnic Senior Staff Quarters, Tejgaon Industrial Area, had late dinner and went on to sleep as usual but with some anxiety. Soon we all woke up with five young children, my wife and myself and two younger dependants in midst of heavy sounds of shelling and fire flying over my residence top 4th floor. I got all lying on floor and watched with awe and fear what was going on at that dead of 25th March past mid night. Shelling over my residence, a flat of block of 32 flats soon stopped. But there were similar sounds heard and fires seen from many other places. Thus passed the 25th March night. The next morning we knew rumors about resistances at places like the EPR (BDR), Rajarbagh police Lines, etc. Apart from these fearful fights people knew only about a political action program of Hartal call by the Sheikh on the 27th March. But rumors were in air that the Sheikh had been arrested before midnight on the 25th March that was soon confirmed from various foreign media sources. While the people were in utter confusion in the absence of the Sheikh in leadership, many of us in Dhaka knew that in the absence of the Sheikh, and in overcoming the confusion as to what the people to do, an unknown Major of the East Bengal Regiment of the Pakistan Army had declared independence of Bangladesh on the 26th March and also assumed himself the Presidency of independent Bangladesh based at Kalurghat Radio station near Chittagong, 200 away from the capital city Dhaka. The next day, on the 27th March, we knew that on insistence of some of Zia’s close colleagues, nothing of any whatsoever indication from Mujib, there was no scope of any for the two had nothing of any prior contact much less knowledge of each other, he amended the announcement in inclusion of Mujib’s name for more acceptability to the people in the declaration of independence. These are the versions we knew in Dhaka, authenticated by many later on, one like National Professor Syed Ali Ahsan, etc. as also writer and researcher Masudul Haq painstakingly recorded relevant facts in his books Bangladesher Swadhinata RAW O CIA er Bhumika and Swadhiatar Ghoshosna Myth O Dalil. It may not be irrelevant to mention here that Mujib did not only stick to his street program for Hartal on the 27th March that he asked Tajuddin to enforce in his rhetoric SANGRAM CHALIYE JAO, but also repeatedly asked Dr Kamal until late at the 25th night (10:30 P.M.) if the much sought for lone telephone call from Yahya Khan had come or not. Kamal is still alive, and if not for anything else but to put record of history straight he should honestly open his mouth about Mujib’s nod of the UDI before he was taken to custody by the federal army men just before midnight of the 25th March. These chains of duly recorded and authenticated facts should suffice to prove that Mujib did never made UDI of Bangladesh. Neither did he give any consent to any one much less to what some 76 M.P.s (35 according to Barrister Maudud) did on the 10th April (did in fact on the 17th but backdated 10th April, again according to Maudud) in Kolkata and in Delhi. One must reason dispassionately that they had no authority either for they had not been elected to frame any Constitution of Bangladesh so far as the December 1970 election mandated by the LFO was concerned, because, they were meant to frame the Constitution of the Federation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Mujib’s Allergy about Secession
That any such UDI would have been secession that Mujib had all along decried and condemned not only after the election of 1970 but also on many occasions before during the Awami League’s 6 Point propaganda rhetoric. That must speak clearly of his mind as to do nothing of the sort of Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Bangladesh (UDI).
Major Zia’s Rebellion
It is true that some special coterie acting from within and without in the vacuum of leadership between 25th and 26th March circulated some statement said to be given by the Sheikh for UDI that never got authenticated, much less believed by even averagely intelligent people. What many people, however, listened to and believed that one Major Zia had declared independence of Bangladesh on the 26th and repeated then after wards from the Chittagong Kalurghat based temporary 10 KW transmitter station.
Even the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi later on, seriously doubted the fact that Mujib had at all make the UDI when she clearly pointed out in meeting with Tajuddin, Moustaque etc. soon after the 25th March in Delhi stating that no General could surrender to the enemy immediately after declaring war for independence. In fact, Mujib had been young Muslim League cadre and fighter for establishing Pakistan in his Islamia College student days in Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1940s. Though he later on dissociated from the Muslim League, albeit, not before founding of Pakistan but two years after in June 1949 and joined Maolana Bhashani and Suhrawrdy in the Awami Muslim League, not for doing any harm to Pakistan but for working as a formal opposition party to build up still stronger Pakistan that he reiterated even after Bhashani’s exit from the Awami League and Suhrawardy’s demise in 1963. Indira’s skepticism thus about UDI by Mujib was not without any basis. This is not to say though that there were no seriously committed others in the second line of leadership who wished by all means to effect secession, dismember Pakistan and secure independence of Bangladesh. That is why the Mujibnagar based Exile Government Prime Minister Tajuddin had to face humiliation in the hand of Mujib in independent Bangladesh. Professor late Aftab Ahmad from his own first hand knowledge asserted that Mujib had rebuked Tajuddin right at the Tejgaon Airport Tarmac on the 10th January 1972 just on arrival to Dhaka from captivity in Pakistan for dismembering Pakistan (having had Indian armed help). One may recall the fact that Mujib, in his three and a half years rule of Bangladesh (1972-Mid August 1975), did never make any time for even an hour to visit the renowned Mujibnagar (named in honor of his name in his absence by the devotees), the first capital of the Bangladesh Government in Exile! Why?
A.K. Brohi’s assessment about Mujib
I wonder if I could end up the item to insist further from other document that the Sheikh even at the height of his trying times of life and death in trial for ‘treason’ in mid 1971 in Islamabad stood for one and unity of the Federation of Pakistan including both of the East and West Pakistan that his Chief lawyer A.K Brohi, a well known person of the highest integrity not only in Pakistan but also elsewhere, in the case left document in London that very fortunately I had occasion to get to know personally being then in the city. Brohi’s dying declaration published in a fortnightly on the 25th September 1987 in London stated the relevant facts as follows:
‘Mujibur Rahman was being tried on the charge that he had been working for the secession of East Pakistan and according to Brohi he had absolutely denied the accusation. Brohi also personally believed that this was a true defence plea. Later on when India attacked East Pakistan, again, according to Brohi.Mujibur Rahman, offered to appear on the TV and appeal to the people of East Pakistan against Indian attack. He passed on the offer to the martial law administrator, Gen Yahya Khan. Apparently the offer was ignored.’ (Impact International, p.19).
Other Facts in Authentic Documents
Shall I mention some other recorded facts for others to ponder about from a document published recently about Mujib’s trial that noted that though the trial ended conferring death sentence to Mujib for treason in August, 1971 the President Yahya did never care to sign the paper of the sentence even if he had been in office for further five months duration until late December 1971 (See, Kamal Matin Uddin, Tragedy of Errors, p.235). Was it without any internal reason? One may have some inquisitive look into another document by Sarder Muhammad Chaudhury that provided some elaboration of continuing close relations of Yahya and Mujib from late 1969 (See, The Ultimate Crime, pp.98-99). President Yahya’s public declaration of the name of Mujib as the ‘Future Prime Minister of Pakistan’ could hardly be without any prior understanding. People as well knew from the very beginning that Yahya and Mujib would share central power following the election respectively as the President and the Prime Minister.
It may not also be out of place to cite from American Professor and historian Stanley Wolpert from his well researched work Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan wherein Mujib had been quoted verbatim from the tape recorded version of talks between Mujib and Bhutto in late December 1971 to early January 1972 just before President Bhutto set him free on the 8th January and sent him to London on his free choice to go to, then to Dhaka via Delhi. Some relevant verbatim of Mujib recorded therein are as follows:
‘… I told you it will be confederation. This is also between you and me…You leave it to me, .. absolutely leave it to me. Trust me….My idea was we will live together and we will rule this country. You know the occupation (Indian) army is there…’ (P.175)
Mujib termed the Indian MITRA BAHINI as the Occupation Force
That Mujib considered the Indian army of 1971 fighting for independence of Bangladesh as the occupation army mentioned to Dr. Henry Kissinger in a meeting in late October 1974 in Dhaka (See, US State Department declassified document published recently and also reprinted in the weekly Holiday, Dhaka, March 06, 2009). How come that Mujib blasted the Indian Amry’s intervention in 1971 war with disgust so much so as to call them ‘occupation army’, whereas, the official position had been known as the Indian MITRA BAHINI or allied friendly army!
In sum I have no hesitation in my mind to state that Mujib had been a Pakistani, not a secessionist, and so he did not make the UDI in 1971 in any form whatsoever. Others had imputed the value to him but having had no authenticity, not even a nod of any kind he had provided. It was as such unbecoming of the High Court Bench to assign Mujib the label on the basis of pure hearsay and not on concrete evidence and authentic facts.
That Mujib did nothing of the UDI that possibly he could do in March 1971 and that in the omission the whole period of 1971 war lacked de jure legitimacy that had no immediate sight of legitimacy for Pakistan did not recognize the independence of Bangladesh that made him to rush on to hold a general election that was nothing of any due in terms of period elapsed after the previous election of 1970, but just only to get the legitimacy and some sort of ease of his own psychological guilt of the omissions of the 1971 episode that he over enthusiastically did passing a legitimizing resolution to power of ascendancy in the new Parliament elected in March 1973 though through mass rigging. Whether the hara-kiri was sufficient enough to make him legitimate in power in the absence of recognition by Pakistan until early 1974 remained another matter of de-jure legal question, if not de-facto one. After all, the post 1971 government of Bangladesh was not in anyway a revolutionary one that could have been so made for the war had been fought by all party combined and not alone by the Awami League. The post 1971 lone party Awami League government was, in fact, the legitimate continuation of the LFO based election of December 1970.
Based on the facts at my disposal and the assessment I made above, I am sure that the 21st June verdict given by the honorable High Court Bench fell far short of the authentic historical facts and thus has only dented our pride of the independence of judiciary.