Military rule and the Awami League
Syed Badrul Ahsan ended his article on the above subject (The Daily Star June 27, '12) with these two sentences -- "False history was what we lived through between 1975 and 1996. Must we go through that dark tunnel again?" Most certainly not. And that is why I should like to point out to, what I think to be some factual inaccuracies, errors and misinterpretations in what Mr. Ahsan wrote in response to the comments of Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the acting Secretary General of BNP, about Awami League's support for unconstitutional military regime.
First, 1997. Ahsan writes: "The government of Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman was destroyed in a military coup. He and his family were all murdered by soldiers. Where was the AL's support here for the illegal military regime which supplemented it? It was again soldiers who put an end to the lives of the four national leaders."
The gruesome tragedy of August 1975 was caused by a putsch of a few mid-ranking army officers, most of whom were freedom fighters and at least one (Major Dalim) was known to have been very close to the Sheikh family. It is widely believed that Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, who was one of the seniormost, experienced and highly placed leader of the Awami League and an important member of the cabinet (but opposed to BAKSAL), along with the then State Minister for Information Taheruddin Thakur master-minded or significantly contributed to the bloody change of the government. In this putsch, the entire army was not involved, and there was no countrywide army show of force, but yet the army, navy and the air chiefs declared their allegiance to the new army rule the very next day. The army and the air chiefs were distinguished freedom fighters, and subsequently they became important Awami League leaders. After the change of the government, they performed their respective duties for a short while, and eventually went abroad in cushy postings as ambassadors to important and comfortable capitals.
The new head of the government announced that the BAKSAL government was gone and that the status-quo-ante had been restored. It was an Awami League cabinet comprising most of the member of the erstwhile Bangabandhu cabinet. Actually, all were important AL leaders or known to be AL supporters, and they did not disown their identity.
We know what happened in 1975, and what the situation was in the country. The new cabinet did not condole the tragic death of the president who died in harness. The Awami League party did not hold organised protest, nor did they start any anti-government movement. Awami League was the only organised party (if we forget BAKSAL) that time, and mind you, it was not really an army rule which was imposed over the whole country (the army chief just retained his position) as the rebel army majors did not control the army. These leaders of the putsch kept themselves confined in the Bangabhaban, surrounded by a few tanks. If the AL wanted to start an anti-government movement, and if they had popular support, certainly those killers could not have suppressed it. It was the AL leader Khandaker Mushtaque who imposed Martial Law, and no one else. The brutal jail killings could not have taken place without his direction or support. This is history. Anything else is distortion.
Syed Badrul Ahsan further commented: "It was the AL's sustained movement on the 6 Points which led to the collapse of the Ayub regime in March 1969." I should, in this connection, draw Ahsan's attention to an article written by Mahmudur Rahman Manna in the editorial page of Bangladesh Protidin (June 27, 2012) titled "BNP's Andolon-2." The facts and factors that caused Ayub's downfall have been indicated therein. Actually, history tells us that the first anti-Ayub movement was initiated by the combined opposition parties (COP), who chose Mohtarma Fatema Jinnah to contest Ayub Khan in the presidential election of 1964 held under the BD system. The campaign in her favour was spearheaded in the then East Pakistan by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and former governor Azam Khan. Anti-Ayub movement, for realisation of 6-Points started in 1966, but the direct agitation to oust Ayub Khan started in West Pakistan as a people's movement. It sparked off in Peshawar and soon engulfed the whole of West Pakistan under Bhutto's PPP. Immediately thereafter, it spread in the then East Pakistan where anti-Agartala movement was on. Agartala case was withdrawn and Bangabandhu was released from jail on February 22, 1969 under pressure from all sides. Ayub Khan resigned on March 25, 1969 and handed over power to Yahya Khan on the same day. Yahya promulgated Martial Law and promised general election by October 1970. The AL did not enter into any conflict with the military government of Yahya Khan and went ahead with the preparations for election in which it had a convincing victory. I recall that President Yahya Khan, after AL victory, called Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujubur Rahman as the "future prime minister of Pakistan" which, if the political happenings were permitted to have their unhindered natural flow, would have become a reality. This is history.
Recalling Ershad's coup and the army takeover in 1982, Ahsan writes: "It was only natural that an emboldened general would find it easy to remove Sattar, which he did on March 24, 1982. The BNP said not a word."
Well, what did the AL do? The party, in a way, welcomed it, rather than waging a protest movement. It was a military coup against the elected President Sattar of BNP, and Justice Sattar had to quit on gunpoint, the BNP government was ousted by military force and many of it's leaders were arrested. Then onwards, the role of AL is known to all. The parliamentary election of 1986 was held by Lt. General Ershad to give him legitimacy. No one ever thought, even in one's wildest dream, that President Ershad was holding a parliamentary election to hand over power to the elected political party in 1986. Initially, there was an understanding between the AL and BNP that the proposed election, which would in any case be manipulated, would be boycotted. If that would have been done, it would have been extremely difficult for Ershad to continue. But betraying the understanding, AL participated in the election, and the result was indeed "predictable." Ershad's JP defeated Sheikh Hasina's AL mercilessly and gained so-called legitimacy to remain in power. The BNP, under Begum Khaleda Zia's leadership, stood firm and uncompromising. It was when AL joined BNP in anti-Ershad and anti-military rule agitation that ultimately brought Ershad's downfall. This is history.
It was AL which welcomed the army-installed government of Fakhruddin-Moyeenuddin in January 2007. The AL leader was even present in the oath-taking ceremony to personally greet. We all know what role the army played in the government. And in 2009, the AL came back to power by an unprecedented thumping majority in the general election held under the auspices of that military backed government. This is history.
History was again made on the floor of the parliament on the closing day of the debate on current budget. M.P. Ershad appealed to fellow parliamentarians not to call him a dictator (shoirachar), even though he had seized power by military force in 1982 from a democratically elected government. We were distressed to see how welcomingly his fellow AL MPs reacted to that.
I suggest that Mr. Ahsan may like to read the article on that incident written by columnist Faruq Wasif in the editorial page of the Prothom Alo of June 28. I don't want to be repetitive. And yes, also the article by columnist Syed Abul Maqsood in the same newspaper (June 26). Regretting the current government's activities, he said that Bangladesh had become "Number One" in manufacturing falsehood and distortions. He questions and answers, now which country is "most dexterous in deceiving and bluffing the people? It is the state of Bangladesh." Obviously the state of Bangladesh here means the different state apparatus of the government. This is the fact, and tomorrow, this will be history.
I don't think I need to write anymore to substantiate what Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said on this issue.