‘Be a minister or be in jail for 25 years’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 16, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:00 AM, August 16, 2020

‘Be a minister or be in jail for 25 years’

President says about a ‘proposal he got from Zia’ after Aug 15

President Abdul Hamid has said then military ruler Ziaur Rahman had offered him the opportunity to become a minister after the brutal assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

"Zia had offered me through Colonel Mahfuzur Rahman the opportunity to become a minister.... At the same time, he also threatened to throw me behind bars for 25 years if I did not agree to the offer," the president said.

He was talking about his memories of Bangabandhu and the aftermath of his killing in a recorded interview to the Bangladesh Television (BTV) on National Mourning Day.

Referring to the offer by Zia, Hamid said he officially protested the barbaric assassination of Bangabandhu by attending a discussion on February 21 in 1976 in Kishoreganj.

"In my speech, I had said: 'From Hitler-Mussolini to anybody else, no autocrat has survived. No autocrat will survive in this country as well,'" the president added.

Hamid, who was then a student leader-cum young parliamentarian, said he was arrested a few days after making the remark.

Recalling his memories with the Father of the Nation, Hamid said, "I was in the MP hostel on that fateful night of August, and I heard multiple noises before going to bed about 3:00-400am on that night. I thought the Dhaka University was rejoicing and firecrackers were exploding."

"It was about 7:00am... Khandaker Nurul Islam, an MP who was staying beside my room, knocked at my door and subsequently conveyed the bad news to me. After a while, he came to me with a radio which was telecasting killer Major Dalim's announcement on the assassination of Bangabandhu."

Hamid was elected as the youngest member of the Pakistan National Assembly from Mymensingh-17 in the 1970 general election.

He was elected from Kishoreganj-5 in the first general election of the country on March 7, 1973. He won parliamentary polls in 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2008.

The president, who had been involved in politics since his student life, said being a new lawmaker, he received Bangabandhu's cooperation on getting his first car.

Referring to the overall situation before August 15, the president said it seemed to him that something bad would happen. "I met Bangabandhu at the Gono Bhaban in the afternoon of August 11, 1975."

"Bangabandhu asked me to wait... Later in the evening, he went for a walk in the Gono Bhaban garden. I was with him. I talked to him privately and informed him about what I came to know from an intelligence agency. But Bangabandhu replied with a smiling face -- 'There was a little trouble... Everything is fine now. Don't worry'."

Hamid, a close associate of Bangabandhu, said he came back being reassured and it was his last meeting with Bangabandhu. "And now I understand that nothing was right then."


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