Air Vice-Marshal (retd) AK Khandker yesterday formally apologised for an “error” made in his book “1971: Bhitore Baire”, saying that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his historic March 7 speech never said “Joy Pakistan”.
Reading out a written statement at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity, Khandker said protests had been made across the country against a particular part on page 32 and “some other content” of the book after it was published in August 2014.
He said the particular segment on page 32 reads: “I don’t think Bangabandhu’s speech [historic March 7 speech] necessarily initiated the Liberation War. The last words of the speech were ‘Joy Bangla, Joy Pakistan’. He called for war and said, ‘Joy Pakistan’!...” (Translated from Bangla.)
“I believe many patriotic citizens were shocked because of this particular part. However, this part was incorporated in my book, the responsibility of such misinformation is mine, and Bangabandhu in his March 7 speech never said the two words, ‘Joy Pakistan’,” Khandker said in his statement.
“So, I am withdrawing that whole paragraph which includes the mentioned part from page 32 of my book, and simultaneously, I apologise to the entire nation and Bangabandhu’s departed soul,” he added.
“I am 90. I consider this to be a great mistake of my life… Hopefully, [the publishing house] Prothoma will reprint my book after omitting the controversial segment from page 32,” he further said.
After the book was published, Khandker, who was the deputy chief of staff of liberation forces during the Liberation War, faced widespread criticism from different quarters, including lawmakers, civil society members and freedom fighters, for some controversial claims he made in the book.
Twenty-one leaders of Sector Commanders’ Forum criticised him, saying the views Khandker provided in his book are “misleading” and lack objectivity.
Khandker later resigned as chairman of the Sector Commanders’ Forum on health ground.
He came under fire from lawmakers of treasury and opposition benches in 2014 for the controversial claims.
Senior MPs of Awami League and Jatiya Party back then demanded that the book be banned for “distorting historic facts”.
Some even went on to say that Khandker who was a planning minister in Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet during 2009 to 2014, might have been paid by “foreign agencies like Pakistan’s ISI” to write the book.
A defamation case was filed against Khandker with the Court of Senior Judicial Magistrate in Brahmanbaria on September 10, 2014.
The case was filed for his statement in the book that Mujib Bahini, a special force formed by AL to fight against the Pakistan occupation army, was “involved in looting during the Liberation War and most of them were not found in the battle field.”