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|Volume 10 |Issue 37 | September 30, 2011 ||
A Proper Farewell
Julfikar Ali Manik
"I wish my mother was alive today, she waited for him till the last days of her life,” read Naweed Qadir's Facebook status on September 22, the day his father Lt Col Abdul Qadir, a liberation war martyr, was reburied. The country has witnessed only two other reburials in the last 40 years since independence.
Naweed, the youngest among three siblings, never got the chance to see his father. He was in his mother's womb when the Pakistani army picked up Col Abdul Qadir from his Chittagong residence on April 17, 1971 and killed him. Unfortunately, Naweed also missed the extraordinary event of reburial of his father. He could not manage to get leave from his job in New Zealand.
His mother Hasna Hena Qadir, was even more unfortunate. She had spent 28 years with the hope of seeing her husband return, or at least getting a confirmation of his ultimate fate – before passing away on 1999. Hasna tried to explore every possible way of knowing the whereabouts of her missing husband including some spiritual guides known as peer and fakirs. The departure of a loved one is undoubtedly a shock for anyone. But when a dear one goes missing it is even more agonising. It creates a mixture of hope and trauma, resulting in confusion about the fate of the missing person. Qadir's family was not beyond such sufferings since 1971 till his formal departure on September 22.
Qadir's wife Hena, eldest child and only daughter Rubina, eldest son Nadeem and youngest one Naweed never gave up their hope of Qadir's return but they had to accept the reality of the nine month bloody Liberation War that gave us the most cherished birth of Bangladesh in exchange of life of three million martyrs. Qadir's family was one among many others who never found the body and never came to officially know the final tragic fate of their dear ones during the war.
Lt Col Qadir, an army officer of engineering corps, was the most senior among the officers of Bangladesh Army who embraced martyrdom in the Liberation War in 1971. Qadir was posted in Chittagong as chief of Oil and Gas Development Corporation of East Pakistan several months before the war began on March 26, 1971. Before the war, he was in touch with the political developments of the country, ultimate goal of which was the birth of liberated Bangladesh. After the war began he planned to join the war. He was also helping the freedom fighters with explosives as he had access to them as head of the corporation now known as Petrobangla. On April 14, 1971 he had to return to his home at Pachlaish, Chittagong. Three days later Pakistani army arrested Qadir from his residence for “treason”.
Qadir never returned. His family accepted his martyrdom. They received recognition as a martyr's family. The Bangladesh government published a postal stamp of Qadir in the series of Martyred Intellectual Memorial Postal Stamp. Qadirabad Cantonment in Natore was also named after him in recognition of the role he played in Bangladesh's independence. But it had never been possible to pay a proper tribute to Qadir, his family never had a grave to go to shed tears for their loved one and pray for his departed soul.
It was Nadeem Qadir, the eldest son of martyr Qadir, who never gave up his hope of finding his father's body. His tireless search since 1990s finally took him to Pachlaish in Chittagong in 2007. That is where he discovered the burial site of martyred Qadir. Nadeem had to cross many hurdles to complete the process for official confirmation. Qadir's children thanked the government and the army for extending their support to make the discovery official.
Although this was what the family wanted, the confirmation was not without its share of pain. Finally his children would have to accept that their father would never come back again. At the same time they felt grateful to at least know the ultimate fate of their valiant father. They now had a grave of their father inside the Qadirabad cantonment where the symbolic soil of the remains of Qadir have been buried with full state honour. A national flag and army flag, handed over to his children after the reburial, covered Qadir's coffin. But Nadeem and his sister Rubina preferred to donate the flags for to the museum of the Qadirabad cantonment.
Forty-nine-year-old Nadeem Qadir, now a veteran journalist, was crying like a child when army bugles played the last post and gunshots were fired in honour of Qadir. Nadeem said after the ceremony that he required nothing else from his life.
Nadeem has collected information regarding his father's historic role before and after the Liberation War. Qadir was born on January 2, 1929 in Rangpur, was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers in 1949. In September 1970 he was posted to Chittagong from West Pakistan. After his return the then retired Colonel MAG Osmany had arranged a meeting for Qadir with Bangabandhu. Qadir was kept in touch with prominent freedom fighters. In February 1971, he donated Tk 10,000 to an Awami League fund raised for the war and hoisted the flag of Bangladesh at his office and his government residence.
Nadeem also shared some very personal moments of his father with the family: "Papa (Qadir) was so confident that Bangladesh will be independent that he started calling East Pakistan –Bangladesh in 1970. On March 7, 1971 after listening to Bangabandhu's speech on radio– he started shouting at home "Joy Bangla, Joy Bangla". Ammu (Hasna Hena) told him to calm down as nothing was guaranteed and being an army officer he should be cautious.
"He was known as ‘Bhashani’ in the Pakistan army for his Bengali nationalistic attitude. He was not only a father, but a friend at that very young age he used to tell me that when I grow up I will be his best friend. He was anxiously waiting for the birth of Naweed, saying I needed a friend to play with and had a lot of dreams for his family once Naweed arrived. When Naweed was born (on April 28, 1971) he was a complete duplicate of Papa and even now one can find many similarities in his behaviour with that of Papa."
The headstone laid besides the grave quotes a famous poem of an American poet Walt Whitman for Qadir: “O captain! my captain! Rise up and hear the bells; Rise up–for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths – for you the shores a-crowding, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning."
Naweed kept his eyes on the website of Bangladeshi newspapers the day following the reburial. His Facebook status read: “Papa finally has been properly buried at the Qadirabad cantonment with honour and dignity.”
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