Rejoinder, our reply
The BNP sent a rejoinder to our report published on August 15 under the headline, “Zia's civil posting: History would have been different.”
Following is the full text (unedited) of the rejoinder, undersigned by BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir:
I refer to the article in the front page of the 15th August 2014 issue of Daily Star by Shakhawat Liton
captioned "Zia's foreign posting-History would have been different".
In his article, Mr Liton has insinuated that Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman, Bir Uttam, had something to do with the events of 15th August 1975 that saw the violent end of the one-party BAKSAL government. He, however, does not provide any credible evidence to substantiate his story.
Any one with the slightest of memory would recall that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's BAKSAL government was replaced by one led by Khandkar Moshtaque Ahmed, a senior Awami League Leader. The entire Cabinet consisted of Awami Leaguers. Current Adviser to the Prime Minister Mr Imam, as Cabinet Secretary, conducted the oath taking ceremony of the Khandkar Moshtaque as President and his Cabinet.
Having already been maliciously superseded for the post of the Chief of Army Staff (Maj. Gen. KM Shafiullah was junior to Gen. Zia), Ziaur Rahman was at that time the Deputy Chief of Army Staff, an administrative post with no command of troops. Common sense would say that he could not have been involved with the events of the day in any way. Clearly, Mr Liton has allowed his imaginations to run wild.
Since Awami League leaders were involved with the events of that day, some of them, including then Speaker of the Parliament Abdul Malek Ukil, not only welcomed the change, they in fact were in a rush to embrace it. The Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the Head of the Police also expressed their allegiance to the new government. The Army and the Air Force Chiefs even accepted plum diplomatic assignments in return. It was no surprise therefore, that key countries like India, China, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and other European, Arab and Asian countries recognized Khandaker Moshtaque's government in quick succession.
Mr. Liton goes on to make the vile suggestion that Gen. Zia, a valiant freedom fighter, should have been packed out of the country and given a foreign diplomatic assignment by the BAKSAL government for no fault of his own. He should know that such a move would have been a travesty of justice for a man who had risked his life for the sake of the people of Bangladesh. Mr. Liton conveniently forgets that it was Major Ziaur Rahman who stood tall on the black night of 25th March in 1971 when the political leadership of the time were either surrendering to the Pakistani authorities or were running into hiding to save their lives, leaving the unarmed people of Bangladesh at the mercy of the marauding Pakistani Army. Maj. Zia's spontaneous and brave decision to revolt in Chittagong and his declaration of independence of Bangladesh was the defining moment of our glorious war of liberation, indeed of our nation's history. That Zia should have declared himself the provisional head of the government of Bangladesh under those trying conditions was not an expression of ambition, as Mr. Liton would want people to believe. It was, in fact, an act of political necessity and demonstrated his political sagacity. This made Zia a national hero, a household name. Mr Liton suggests that Gen. Zia deserved to be punished for that.
Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman's huge popularity in the Army was due to his impeccable sense of professionalism, honesty, courage and integrity. To his military colleagues he was a role model. It is this that made many in the unpopular BAKSAL government uneasy and nervous. Hence they wanted him out.
Mr. Shakhawat Liton has resorted to an orchestrated and motivated campaign of character assassination of Ziaur Rahman, Bir Uttam, a true patriot. In the process, he has chosen to ignore facts on the ground. This certainly cannot be called professional and objective journalism.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir
Acting Secretary General
Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP
The BNP in its rejoinder did not specify any point in our report with which the party disagrees; rather, it made some sweeping comments.
In our report, we focused on the Bangabandhu government's move to send Gen Ziaur Rahman on a diplomatic posting abroad and how he thwarted the move a few months before August 15, 1975. We cited Zia's takeover of the offices of army chief, chief martial law administrator (CMLA) and the post of the president and some other major activities in the aftermath of the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and the overthrow of his government.
The BNP did not deny the fact that there was a move to send Zia on a diplomatic posting. It acknowledged the fact by claiming that Zia's "huge popularity" made many in the unpopular BAKSAL government "uneasy and "nervous", and concluding, "Hence they [AL] wanted him out.”
The phrases “uneasy" and "nervous” have left room for crucial questions. What was Gen Zia doing that made many in the political government of Bangabandhu felt “uneasy" and "nervous” with the “popularity” of Gen Zia, who was a public servant as the then deputy chief of army staff?
Nobody, including the BNP, can deny that Zia took over the offices of army chief, CMLA and that of the president. All are facts and we cited them in our report.
The BNP claimed that "Common sense would say that he could not have been involved with the events of the day [Aug 15] in any way". But Zia's close link with the killers of Aug 15 has been evident in many authoritative books. He got the reward by maintaining links with the killers who made Zia chief of army staff on August 24, removing Gen KM Shafiullah from the office.
By declaring himself president of the provisional government, Zia, who was a major in the army in 1971, had made a blunder. In the face of protests, he had corrected the mistake. But the BNP in its rejoinder defends his announcement terming it an act of political necessity and, according to the BNP, this demonstrated Zia's political sagacity. This claim is a part of the orchestrated propaganda the BNP has long been pursuing to undermine the political leadership in 1971 who led the country's Liberation War by forming the provisional government in exile.
In our report, we merely mentioned some of Gen Zia's illegal and controversial activities that he carried out after assuming the office of CMLA and that of the president. These facts speak for themselves and reflect on the character of Gen Zia, and cannot be termed as an attempt at "character assassination."
In the view of the Supreme Court, the entire martial law regime presided over by Gen Zia, Moshtaque and Justice Sayem, was, however, against the dignity, honour and glory of the nation that it achieved after great sacrifice; it was against the "dignity and honour of the people of Bangladesh". The Supreme Court has also declared illegal and void the constitution's fifth amendment that validated and ratified the martial law regime's actions, including indemnifying the killing of Bangabandhu.