Today marks the 25th death anniversary of my father-in-law Lt General Khwaja Wasiuddin (1920-1992), a patriotic army officer and diplomat in later life. Mere words cannot do justice to the memory of the kind of person that he was. I knew him as a very caring, decent and humble human being, although many would consider him to be a very strict, highly-disciplined man who had never refrained from speaking his mind for the rights and dignity of the Bengalis.
His immense love for his country was manifested throughout his career and life.
Khwaja Wasiuddin came from an illustrious family background. His father Khwaja Shahabuddin was the governor of Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan and a minister in the central cabinet while his mother, Farhat Banu, was a niece of Nawab Sir Salimullah and a member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly.
As I write about him today, I am reminded of some of his confidential documents that I had came across, which showed what a giant of a man he was, with a heart to match it. His achievements are indeed legendary, and in those letters, I found ample proof of a brave and honest person who stood tall against all odds.
He would always express his views frankly and bravely to his immediate superiors, in a way that would not be misunderstood, regardless of the consequences. During his stint in Pakistan, Khwaja Wasiuddin wanted to install pride amongst the Bengali soldiers. Speaking in the provincial language was forbidden in the army at that time. Bengali officers, being of a minority group, did not dare to speak their language in public.
But Khwaja Wasiuddin set the precedent by writing his name in Bangla in the nameplate in front of his house in Rawalpindi. He did not stop just there; he read his speech in Bangla at his investiture ceremony as the Colonel Commandant of the East Bengal regiment in Chittagong. He then read his speech in Bangla in Lahore and Sialkot at the presentation ceremony of the National Standard of Pakistan to the 4th and 5th East Bengal regiments.
To quote Major General Khalilur Rahman, who was present at the ceremony, “The General Tikka ('The Butcher of Bengal') listened to his speech standing behind him in Sialkot like a lamb. The Pakistan authorities were bitterly critical of this audacity of a Bengali, but could do nothing about it officially. Such was the personality of General Wasiuddin. Such was his spirit of Bengali nationalism which dared and awed the mightiest of the Pakistanis.”
These are just a few instances of Khwaja Wasiuddin's courageous stand and his enduring love for Bangladesh. There are many more documents of great historical significance. I wish I could share them all. Some might say that he was of Kashmiri origin who settled in Dhaka and was not a Bengali. To them I will say this: my father-in-law was a Bangladeshi by his own choice and, I must add, a very proud one at that.
Aneela Wasiuddin is the daughter-in-law of Lt General Khwaja Wasiuddin.