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Ziaur_RahmanToday is the 30th death anniversary of President Ziaur Rahman. This anniversary comes at a time when Zia, his image, contribution and his philosophy are under fiercest attack ever.

After decades of relentless attack on Zia, the war hero and Zia the statesman, after abysmal failure of Zia’s party to portray him appropriately and effectively, it is no surprise if much of new generation Bangladeshis carry a faulty perception of Ziaur Rahman.

These days we talk a lot about bringing forward-looking youthfulness in our politics. And we also talk a lot about coming out of the slippery slope of hatred and vengeance and create a politics of reconciliation. We keep on hoping, hopelessly, for political leaders with courage and honesty.

Indeed, 35 years ago, it was Ziaur Rahman who brought all these traits together into the politics of Bangladesh and helped people of Bangladesh dream big.

When Zia went on live radio and declared “I hereby proclaim the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of our great national leader Bangabandhu…” he was only 34 years old. Then when he took over the helms of Bangladesh he was 39, and by the time he died leading Bangladesh through its most formative years, Zia was only 45.

Missing in all discussions on Zia is his outright bravery that shaped his and his family’s life as well as shaped the fate of Bangladesh. At the age of 29, he won a military award of gallantry for his bravery during 1965 Indo-Pak war. On 25th March night, leaving his family at the mercy of murderous Pakistani forces, when he revolted and held his pistol at the head of his commanding officer Colonel Janjua – Zia knew very well that he only had one way out of this: fight and win the war.

A political settlement might have pardoned politicians, but for him and his men, a court martial and death penalty was inevitable. In this regard, he or other revolting military officers were not at the same ground with politicians involved with the war.

Five years later, on 3rd November 1975, when Zia was put under house arrest by Col. Shafaet Jamil’s forces, death may have lurked much closer. Four days later, when Col Taher’s Marxist indoctrinated murderous forces were chanting slogan, “Sepoy Sepoy bhai bhai, Officer er rokto chai (Sepoys are brethren – want blood of the officers), killing officers and their families indiscriminately, the whole military chain of command was at tatters, Zia — rather than confining himself to the safety of Army Chief’s office protected by trusted soldiers — went to work. Again risking his life, all day he visited unit to unit to pacify the blood-thirsty rebels and with firm command disarmed the jawans, bringing them back under officers’ control.

Rest of his life and leadership also contain examples of courage. Numerous coup attempts neither could isolate him from the people nor could slow him down.

Living at a time when politics in Bangladesh has become suffused with vengeance and communalism, and while we constantly lament lack of fresh intelligent faces in our politics, Zia’s reconciliatory statesmanship seems like a remote phenomenon. With 15th August massacre and the bloody November at the backdrop, Zia created the biggest ever coalition to rebuild Bangladesh. Not only he included leftist, rightist, centrist political elements in his platform, he also relied heavily on fresh faces — young and bright professionals — in his nation building politics.

Unlike present day, Zia’s political platform was not only for the career politicians, rich businessmen or retired generals or bureaucrats. Leading members of his party and government were the smartest physician, the smartest professor, the smartest accountant, the smartest barrister, the smartest editor and the wisest judge of that time.

He did not only focus on his own government and party; he understood fully the need and role of a strong opposition in a democracy. While he inherited a martial law imposed by the leaders of 15th August coup and constitutional one-party rule imposed by pre 15th August Awami League government of Bangabandhu — Zia made it his first priority to bring back multiparty democracy in Bangladesh. Rather than trying to permanently erase Awami League from Bangladesh, he took all the steps necessary to revamp Awami League from the ruins of BAKSAL.

Recently, Bangladesh went through an experimental under-disguise military rule to impose ‘reform’ within the main political parties of Bangladesh. Our political parties have always been managed in a dictatorial way by the leader. Despite all the false propaganda against him as a brutal dictator, Zia apparently was the first, if not the only leader to allow exercise of democracy within the party. Election of Shah Azizur Rahman as the leader of parliament and prime minister is a perfect example. Ziaur Rahman did not want Shah Aziz for the role owing to the latter’s role in 1971. He wanted ex-NAP leader Moshiur Rahman Jadu Mia to become the leader of parliament and the prime minister.

When Jadu Mia passed away, he preferred a fresh face such as Dr Badruddoza Chowdhury or Saifur Rahman for the job. However, he also wanted the party’s parliamentarians to choose their leader through a secret ballot, which the shrewd Shah Aziz managed to win. Zia could have ignored the wish of his MPs, but chose not to.

While we now see how petty partisanship trump over all other qualifications in government’s day-to-day business, Zia always welcomed people who were not his direct supporters, including his political opponents. Zia’s foreign minister was Professor Shamsul Haq, who served Zia till his death but never joined his party. Mr. M R Siddiqui — a prominent Awami League leader from Chittagong —refused to disown Awami League and remained president of Chittagong unit. Yet Zia, with a bipartisan spirit, appointed Mr. Siddiqui as his most vital ambassador, to the United States.

Zia’s message is as relevant today as it was during his time. Read up any of his speeches, they will appear timely and pertinent. His speech defining Bangladeshi Nationalism remains the most inclusive and the most successful vision of our nationhood that was ever articulated by a Bangladeshi leader. His speeches about family planning, nuclear proliferation or climate change were decades ahead of their time in describing the challenges that would one day face us. In the field of diplomacy, he pioneered the friendly relations with countries of the Middle East that have become our most important labour markets and one of the mainstays of our economy.

Time Magazine, in its June 8, 1981 issue, published a full-page report on the death of President Ziaur Rahman. The report ended with these sentences:

The slain Zia had been one of South Asia’s most promising leaders, a man who lived modestly while others chose corruption, who searched tirelessly for solutions to his country’s awesome poverty. He was also a fatalist. Once, reflecting on his service for Pakistan in the 1965 war with India over Kashmir, he observed: “There is no scientific explanation for a man to die or live. In front of me many people died, but I got a bonus of life.” He used that bonus well, but last week it ran out.

Rumi Ahmed is a blogger.

41 Responses to “Ziaur Rahman: the kind of statesman we need now”

  1. Md Ashiquzzaman

    What Nelson Mandela did in 1994, Zia did 18 years back in 1976 -bringing people of different and even opposite opinions and giving an opportunity to repent and join the mainstream of the country to those who opposed the War of Liberation and to take take part in the development of the country under one umbrella to rebuild the country. “Dekhite giyache porbot mala/ Dekhite giyache Sindhu……………ekti shishir bindu.” We are very much renowned to praise the foreign heroes but we should also be justified with the heroes of this soil. Zia is the real hero of all times in the history of Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs visionary leader like Zia-the only honest and courageous person at the height of power. I salute him. May his name ever glow in the sky of Bangladesh!

  2. Azadi

    “Despite all the false propaganda against him as a brutal dictator, Zia apparently was the first, if not the only leader to allow exercise of democracy”

    Whether you like him or hate him, so far he’s the “best leader Bangladesh has ever had” we need a new Ziaur Rahman in today’s politics.

    • Towfique

      People would like to know the name of new Zia. If not, incidentally, is it Tareque or Coco?

  3. Golam Arshad

    Rumi: Politics of confrontation will divide the nation. This is unacceptable!

  4. T. Hossain

    This article is a misguided one. If you write about Zia’s legacy, you should not forget about the fact that he came from the armed forces. Do you honestly believe that an ex-army man can be a model for a democratic nation like Bangladesh?

    Zia was a freedom fighter and a sector commander during our Liberation War and he gets full credit for that. But post-war, he tried everything to distort images of our struggle and war. He re-established those opposing our liberation war in politics, he hanged more freedom fighter army officers than anyone else. Zia did anything and everything to remain in power. He hanged the man (Col. Taher) who saved his life! He corrupted our political system.

  5. Akash

    Rumi Ahmed is pained that BNP has not been able to uphold the glory of Zia, but BNP is Zia’s brainchild, and what can you expect from a party cobbled together by diehard reactionaries, dedicated communalists and ultra-rightists? The problem is there never has been a dearth of such characters in Bangladesh. Zia’s brilliant success was to collect these people together by seducing, cajoling and inciting them to present an alternative reactionary ideology and make Bangladesh go astray from its destiny.

    It’s clear that Rumi Ahmed is wistful about a General in his lair. He makes a valiant attempt to make a hero out of a clever man who got his comeuppance. Rumi Ahmed complaints of lies and vilifications regarding the General but he resorts to the same. He calls Taher and his group murderous. He tries hard to establish Zia as a man of democracy. The explanation he gives of Shah Aziz is just laughable, and that’s where Rumi Ahmed’s faulty arguments and true intentions show most. Making Shah Aziz as PM of Bangladesh was a hard slap on the face of 1971, and the General did that deliberately.

    The General is such an innocent human, he is always under house arrest or somewhere else when a critical thing is happening, like when Mujib and his family is murdered, or when Tajuddin, Nazrul, Qamruzzaman and Mansur Ali are bayoneted in jail. Poor Zia, he knows nothing! He does nothing! He is such a liberal and humane person, he even assigns diplomatic positions to the killers of Mujib. He endorses indemnity.

    I think we had enough of Zia and his “philosophy,” we are still trying to recover from the deep damages that have been done to the nation. The general can rest in peace. No, thank you, we are no longer interested in an Ayub Khan style statesman, neither are we interested in a retrograde philosophy that conceals a reactionary mission.

    • Roey

      That is just brilliant; I was so infuriated after reading this article that I couldn’t actually muster the right words for a firm rebuttal, believe it or not.

      But you have done that for me, thanks! Let’s hope we never retort to military dictatorship ever again.

  6. Ali

    Repeating Mr. Hasan’s words:

    “Truth never can be kept suppressed and this article is a proof of that.”

    The undertone is that we are all jealous of others, and not accommodating at all. Tolerance and existence of multi-party existence and functioning are the hallmarks of democracy. If we have borrowed the ‘ISM’, why do not we borrow on build, operate and transfer(BOT)principle?

    There was a void that existed, and was just grabbed! That was how some came into the picture, but some were cut short as well.

    Instead of digging the dirt and dust, let us look forward and leave behind a better Bangladesh for the future generation. Or else later they will not spare any of us!

  7. Abid Bahar

    Bangladesh’s Founding Fathers

    No doubt, politicians in particular are not perfect people, so is the case of Bangabandhu, Bhasani or Zia. Nevertheless these three leaders’ contributions in various domains are noteworthy. They all contributed and survived the Liberation War. Despite their many shortcomings, it is their unique contributions due to which they are noted as our founding fathers.

    The USA has three founding fathers, so does India, it has three of them. True, recognising all three of them as our great heroes can only bring unity among our people. While there are great many works done on Bangabandhu and Bhasani, there are not that many works on Ziaur Rahman. Thanks to bdnews24.com and Rumi Ahamed to help us understand Zia a bit better.

  8. Faizul Momen

    Zia had many a positive sides, however, one thing is crystal clear: he did not care about our liberation war and its achievements during his tenure. The government remained silent about the 1971 spirit; so when the post-71 generation grew up, they never heard of neither the 7th March speech nor any popular song of 1971. As if the greatest achievement of Bengali nation was a complete black out, and the trend continued later with Gen. Ershad. The new generations rather were entertained with the ideas of state religion, insertion of Bismillah etc. that were 180 degree opposite to our 1971 spirits.

    One other thing the writer forgot to mention is Gen. Zia’s wholehearted sponsorship for the self-proclaimed killers of 1975 massacre. We as a nation were stigmatized with his infamous indemnity bill that protected the killers from any trial or justice.

    • Bruce Mankhin

      I agree with Md. Faizul Momen. In the pages of history, it is already written down i.e. the role of BNP, Zia, Khaleda, Ershad and Jamaat-e-Islami. The history will say what had happened before and after 71. If anybody wants to change the history it will be shameful for them and for the nation.

      We must recall the role of Golam Azam, Nizami, Kamruzzaman, Saqa Chowdhury, Shah Azizur Rahaman, Sayedee and their colleagues in 1971 war. And also the role played by Zia and BNP after the war i.e. killing of Colonel Taher, four national leaders, massacre of the army officers/personnel/forces, etc. and how the indemnity bill was passed in the parliament to protect the killers from any trial or justice. They also established the Razaakar, Al-badar, Al-shams, and Jamaat-e-Islami politically.

      We can keep going on about BNP and Zia. Zia changed the constitution as required by the party or the BNP govt. Zia created conflict in indigenous area and deployed army and killed thousands of indigenous people, destroyed their property and gave access to the settlers to go and settle at the indigenous people’s land.

      So the history is already written and the facts can’t be changed.

  9. M. Sanjeeb Hossain

    Questions, Rumi Ahmed, questions:

    1) You wrote, ‘When Zia went on live radio and declared “I hereby proclaim the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of our great national leader Bangabandhu…” he was only 34 years old.’ You conveniently didn’t mention that Zia had aired another radio message where he initially declared independence illegitimately without mentioning Bangabandhu’s name and mentioning himself as the head of the government. Subsequently, after realising that no one knew who he was and that making a declaration without mentioning Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s name would hold no ground did Zia mention Bangabandhu’s name. I wonder why he did all that … what is even more interesting is that Ziaur Rahman immediately prior to joining the war was in fact on his way to unloading a ship full of arms on behalf of the Pakistan Army. It was only when the sepoys under him revolted that Zia was coerced in joining the war efforts. It’s all there in Anthony Mascarenhas’s book ‘Bangladesh: A legacy of blood’.

    2) You wrote, ‘A political settlement might have pardoned politicians, but for him and his men, a court martial and death penalty was inevitable. In this regard, he or other revolting military officers were not at the same ground with politicians involved with the war.’ Wow, I must say, that’s a first! With Bangabandhu facing death and behind bars in Pakistan, it’s interesting as to how you promote how revolting military officers were somehow on some higher footing than politicians. I’m not undermining them in any way, but to even suggest something along the lines of what you’ve stated shows your lack of understanding as to what the scenario was like in 1971. Had Pakistan won the war in 1971, everyone who revolted against Pakistan would have been prosecuted, everyone (civilian and military).

    3) You wrote, ‘Five years later, on 3rd November 1975, when Zia was put under house arrest by Col. Shafaet Jamil’s forces, death may have lurked much closer. Four days later, when Col Taher’s Marxist indoctrinated murderous forces were chanting slogan, “Sepoy Sepoy bhai bhai, Officer er rokto chai (Sepoys are brethren – want blood of the officers), killing officers and their families indiscriminately, the whole military chain of command was at tatters, Zia — rather than confining himself to the safety of Army Chief’s office protected by trusted soldiers — went to work.’ Interesting, Rumi Ahmed, but false nonetheless. You’ve conveniently forgotten to mention that Ziaur Rahman was under house arrest and was forced to resign from his position of army chief by Brigadier Khaled Musharraf. Shafayet Jamil was only an aide to Musharraf. Why did you not mention Khaled’s name in your article? Are you trying to hide the fact that Khaled Musharraf was killed under the orders of Ziaur Rahman? The men who killed Khaled, one of them namely Captain Jalil, after killing Khaled in broad daylight reported back to Zia confirming Khaled’s death. Why did the killers report back to Zia with Khaled’s body? Perhaps you should read ‘Tin ti shena obhutthan o kichu na bola kotha’ by the then Dhaka Station Commander Colonel Hamid (who also happened to be a very close friend of Ziaur Rahman). The facts are all there.

    Then, you’ve gone on to call Colonel Taher’s Marxist forces murderous! Are you serious? Do you even know how many people died or were killed during the Sepoy Mutiny of November 7, 1975? The casualties were minimal. Taher had ordered his followers within the Bangladesh Army not to harm (let alone kill) anyone and they had followed Taher’s orders word for word. In fact the persons responsible for the killings on November 7 were the same killer officers working under Khandaker Mushtaque. They had nothing to do with Taher. Why are you trying to defame Taher like this? Is it because Zia betrayed one of his closest friends Taher despite swearing on the Quran that he would listen to the demands of the revolutionary soldiers (sepoys)? Is it because it was Zia who was fully aware of what Taher represented, but nonetheless begged Taher for his life – only to hang him through most disgraceful of trials – a proceeding where Zia did not even have the basic courage to appear as a witness??

    It’s evident now that Zia was playing multiple sides. He used Taher as a vessel to obtain power and in the process of doing so he betrayed the true spirit of 1971 by going against Taher and his sepoys, who were the last standing forces who had actively fought in 1971. Zia had most if not all of them hanged through mock trials. Shall we forget that it was Zia who arranged for Jamaat-e-Islami’s re-entry into Bangladesh politics? Shall we forget that it was Ziaur Rahman who appointed Shah Azizur Rahman (a famous collaborator from 1971 who was against our independence) as prime minister of Bangladesh?

    The truth remains that Zia knew about Bangabandhu’s murder much before it happened, which is why he was totally inactive on the night of August 15, 1975. He was duty bound as an officer of the Bangladesh Army to protect Bangabandhu and he consciously did not do so like his other counterparts within the military.

    Ziaur Rahman was indeed a clever man which is why he was able to have his brief stint with history. But as the days go by, and we get closer and closer to the truth, we see how blood-stained Ziaur Rahman’s hands really were. If there ever were a true ‘counter-revolutionary’, i.e. someone who successfully betrayed the spirit of 1971 and all the reasons behind the birth of Bangladesh, it would no doubt be Ziaur Rahman.


    • Batash

      Yes, how dare the author call the Marxist forces murderers? We all know that Marxists are all about non-violence. JSD’s struggle against AL in 1972-75 was modeled on the civil right struggles of Gandhi and King.

      Poor Taher and his sepoys. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

    • sajjad

      Blabbering of a blind man who seems to know all the facts!

      • M. Sanjeeb Hossain

        Instead of making comments that seriously point towards your intellectual inaptitude, why not try to address what I’ve said?

      • Rumi Ahmed

        Dear Mr. Hosssain

        Your rather long deliberation does not deserve a response, as these are nothing but continuation of same old lie and revisionism those have continued for the last three decades.

        Every single statement you made here are either outright wrong or somewhat distorted to make your point. No references were given in all but two of your statements.

        So rather than dignifying your rhetoric by replying to all those, I’ll talk about the two statement you had reference.

        1. About Khaled Mosharraf’s death, you referred to the book, ‘Tin ti shena obhutthan o kichu na bola kotha’ by the then Dhaka Station Commander Colonel Hamid. May I ask you humbly, did you read the book or just throwing a name to confuse people? Col Hamid did not write anything you quote him. Rather he clearly quotes Col Nawazish, how Taher’s murderous soldiers killed three great freedom fighters, Brig Gen Khaled Mosharraf, Col Huda and Col Haider. In addition, Col Taher, in the very long statement he made to the military tribunal that tried him, never blamed Zia for killing Khaled.

        2. You also mention that Zia was coerced in joining the war efforts referring to Anthony Mascarenhas’s highly opinionated book ‘Bangladesh: A legacy of blood’. Which edition of that book has this fiction? The edition I have states that after hearing the beginning of 25th March crackdown on Dhaka, Zia, to his own credit, immediately halts his assignment, turns back to HQ and revolts.

      • Towfique

        All through in your write-up, except for Zia’s reading out of the declaration of independence, as well as in this reply you are digging untruths and resorting to distortions of facts. Not surprisingly, every BNP think tank does it demonstrating how crippled and impoverished they are both morally and intellectually let alone rootlessness.

        Just one example here, can you deny the fact if Zia wanted or tried he could protect lives of his fellow freedom fighters (our great heroes in liberation war)in army barrack when he was very much in control and command. Zia didn’t do that as he wanted them to be killed since he was one of the conspirators of Bangabondhu killing and had deep ulterior motives! On the contrary, K.Musharraf given all the reasons and opportunities didn’t kill Zia signifying the difference between a villain and a hero of our liberation war!

      • M. Sanjeeb Hossain

        Thank you Mr. Rumi Ahmed for replying.

        You’ve stated, “Every single statement you made here are either outright wrong or somewhat distorted to make your point. No references were given in all but two of your statements.” How many references have you made in your article? I do not see a single one. Since you claimed my statements to be ‘outright wrong’ please be kind enough to address every single issue that I talked about instead of picking out ones that are relatively ‘more’ convenient for you to talk about. And do provide references when you do so this time, the need of which you’ve so aptly emphasised on.

        Moving on. I did talk about Anthony’s Bangladesh a Legacy of Blood. I am unable to provide specific page numbers because I do not have the book with me right now. I’ll try to provide it once I return to Bangladesh and get hold of my personal copy. If I’ve quoted the wrong book, I apologise in advance. In the meantime, let’s refocus on the fact of Zia going to the port to unload arms from MV Swat and being coerced into battle by his subordinates. Are you denying this fact or not? Since you insist on page numbers please read pages 108-110 from Major Rafiqul Islam’s ‘A Tale of Millions’. That should assist you in determining whether Ziaur Rahman really was involved in maintaining ties with the Pakistan Army till March 25, 1971 in the form of doing chores such as unloading a ship full of ammunition which would be used against the Bengali people.

        Moving on to your second concern. I had suggested in my reply that it was Ziaur Rahman and not Taher who was responsible for Khaled Mosharraf’s death. Let us see how Colonel Hamid described the event in his book ‘Tin ti shena obhutthan o kichu na bola kotha’. Hamid writes: ‘ … ’75 shaler 7 November raat 12tay Bongobhobone Shipahi biplober khobor peye General Khaled Colonel Huda o Hayderke shonge niye prothome Brigadier Nuruzzamaner bashay jan. Shekhan theke Shere Bangla Nogore obosthito doshom Bengal Regiment e jete shiddhanto nen. Ullekkho, doshom Bengalle Bogura theke Khaled e aniyechilen tar nirapottar jonno. Pothe Fatema Nursing Home er kache tar gari kharap hoye gele tini Huda o Hayder shoho paye hetei doshom Bengal e goye pouchen. Ukto unit er Commanding Officer chilen Colonel Nawajish. Khaleder agomoner khobor peye totkhonat tini telephone e Two-Field e shoddo-mukto General Ziaur Rahman ke tar unit e Khaleder uposthitir kotha janan. Tokhon bhor prae sharey charta. Zia’r shathe tar kichu kotha hoy. Erpor tini Major Jolil ke phone ditey bolen. Zia’r shathe Major Joliler kotha hoy. Bhorbela dekhte dekhte shipahi bidroher probol dheu doshom Regiment e eshe pore. Poristhiti Colonel Newajish er niyontroner baire chole jay. Officer Mess e boshe Khaled-Hayder-Huda shokaler nashta korchilen. … emon shomoy Major Jolil Mess er bhetor probesh kore. Tar shathe ekjon biplobi Habildar o chilo. Shey chitkar diye General Khaled ke bollo – ‘amra tomar bichar chai’! Khaled shantokonthe jobab dilen, ‘thik ache, tomra amar bichar koro. amake Zia’r kache niye cholo.’ Shoyonkrio rifle bagiye Habildar chitkar kore bollo – ‘amra ekhanei tomar bichar korbo.’ Khaled dhir stheer. Bollen, ‘thik ache, tomra amar bichar koro.’ Khaled du’haath diye tar mukh dhaklen. ttrrrr! Ekti brush fire. Mejhete lutiye porlen shena-bahinir choukosh Officer General Khaled Musharraf …’

        I quoted directly from Colonel Hamid’s book. It is obvious that Hamid wrote of a time when Zia was freed and had consolidated his power. Isn’t it obvious from the above account that General Zia had given some kind of order to Major Jalil (who was not a revolutionary officer under Taher’s command) and this order had prompted Major Jalil to take some disgruntled ‘biplobi shipahis’ to kill Khaled Mosharraf? Clearly, non-revolutionary officers who were acting under Zia’s orders had killed Khaled Mosharraf. Even Colonel Hamid indirectly admits to this by stating, ‘Proshno hocche, Zia Major Jolil ke ki bolechelien? … Shondeho nei, kebol shipahi na, hottajogge Officer rao chilen. Senior Officer der nirdeshe eshob hottakando hoyechilo.’

        Taher never had any association with this character named Major Jalil. For the sake of clarity let me say that this Major Jalil is not the Major Jalil who was the President of the JSD, who was in jail on November 7, 1975. If it really was Taher who had ordered the killing of Khaled Mosharraf it would have been done before Zia was freed when Taher’s men were in the process of neutralising the coup initiated by Khaled Mosharraf through which Khaled had put Zia under house arrest. Interestingly, after Khaled was killed at the initiative of Major Jalil he promptly reported back to General Zia with Khaled’s body in confirmation of his death. May I ask why General Zia in the days, weeks and years that followed never took any measures against him or any of the other officers who were involved in Khaled’s murder?

        I hope this clarifies your concerns. Thanks again.

      • Phil.K

        How many references have you made? Think twice before accusing somebody or simply refrain from writing such misleading articles in the future.

        S. Hussain on the other hand has been backing up his responses with facts all the way. Why don’t you try doing the same and then step up to the plate? Can you do that for the sake of journalism? If not, then keep your fictitious beliefs to yourself.

    • Family Guy

      Dear Sanjeeb Hossain, please reflect on the fact that Ziaur Rahman’s political ideology is still routinely endorsed by more than one-third of all Bangladeshis, in election after election. While Abu Taher’s group of defenders have come down to his brother and nephew.

      • M. Sanjeeb Hossain

        Dear Family Guy,

        Yes indeed. Ziaur Rahman’s political ideology (I often get confused as to what his political ideology really was …) has a large fan following. On the other hand, in terms of electoral support, Taher till today remains largely unrepresented.

        I think this is due to two main reasons. They are as follows:

        1) Ziaur Rahman legitimised his political identity through engineered national ballots (‘the infamous ha-na- votes’) where the results showed that he had attained nearly 100% votes of the Bangladesh population. Even the most popular leaders of the world do not get votes in such disproportionate numbers.

        2) When a country suffers from roughly 15 years of military rule it is not surprising that the truth of how these military rulers (such as Zia and Ershad) came into power will be suppressed. 15 years is often more than enough for people to acquire false histories and propagandas. Such a past has obviously allowed for the sidelining of Taher’s version of the story in the discourses of history. It is only now that the people of our country are gradually gaining access to alternate histories they hardly heard of before.

        3) Zia physically eliminated Taher and his supporters, who in the 1970s were not less in numbers by any standards. There were a series of martial law tribunals which killed Taher and his followers within the Bangladesh Army. Might I mention here that Zia had to tackle around 17 mutinies following Taher’s execution in 1976 to the late 1970s?

        The point I am trying to make here is, when one resorts to politically legitimising himself through rigged elections, physically eliminating political opponents and promoting wrong histories or half-truths, is it surprising to see in subsequent decades that Zia has a superior vote count compared to Taher?

        I would like to add here that these two persons’ political ideologies were also very different. Zia’s fan base is the middle-class which Lenin identified as the people wavering between the ‘left’ and ‘right’. Undoubtedly, resting on the reasons identified above (there are other peripheral reasons as well), the BNP has been able to consolidate its support (in what you called one third of our population). Perhaps if Taher’s party, i.e. the JSD, had not had to face the wrath of Zia in the late 1970s, it would have also successfully consolidated its power within the proletariat masses of Bangladesh.

        I would like to finish off by reminding you that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ cannot be legitimised through populist support. Just because most Germans during the 1930s-40s supported Hitler does not mean that Hitler was right or a good man. Finally, I sensed some cynicism when you wrote, ‘While Abu Taher’s group of defenders have come down to his brother and nephew.’ Do not underestimate the strength of a father and a son. Our honesty and integrity is intact. That is all we need. Thanks.

  10. Akash

    It’s pathetic when seemingly well informed people sing the paean of a Pakistani-style militarist as Zia. That actually was Zia’s brilliance, to have a certain group of intelligentsia follow him till now.

    But Zia was the greatest poseur in Bangladesh’s history. He posed as a freedom fighter and then killed thousands of soldiers like nobody’s business. He presented democracy talk but which grew from a Pakistani-style political-military culture. He talked about and did maintain fighting corruption but he turned the army into a vast business class engaged in corruption. He came to heal a divisive nation but he drove hard wedges by systematically undermining all the ideals of the Liberation War. He offered a new spirit for the nation by reviving all the dead, undead and defeated elements of the social ranks… think of Shah Azizur Rahman, think of patronising the Farooq-Rashid gong.

    That he was killed so brutally is unfortunate, but that a culture of brutalism was nurtured was Zia’s own doing. And quoting Time magazine, you might as well quote Time magazine on Pinochet and Marcos and “heroes” like that.

  11. Towfique

    This is a completely bogus write-up and another raw attempt to distort our history like being marketed by many veteran BNP ideologues, glorifying treacheries of an illegal ruler in Bangladesh’s black past. There is nothing new in the article and the same thing with little or half truths and mostly with lies and distortions of facts. In fact, the article has only rephrased the old distortions, playing with superficial facts to basically feed those decaying elements of BNP and its supporters. Here are a few comments/questions from the write-up:

    – True that Zia led formative years of making a deformed Bangladesh.

    – True that Zia’s bravery shaped his and his family’s life (evident in post Zia period) by damaging Bangladesh’s historical legacy and fate.

    – Like many such efforts, another stunning discovery that Zia held his pistol at the head of Janjua while revolting. What his comrades-in-arms will tell?

    – Zia was taken (not freed) outside from the house he was confined by his motivated loyalists (not like that he could confine himself to the safety of Army Chief’s office) during the November turmoil, and these loyalists didn’t spare his friends and comrades fought together in the liberation war. The killing of our liberation war heroes in army custody, when Zia was very much in control of the command, was another milestone of our history, which was the beginning of Zia’s taking revenge on his opponents both within the army and civilians, which continued until his death in Chittagong. He was killed in one of several such attempted coups throughout his rule, which were ruthlessly suppressed followed by massacres and killings of mostly remaining freedom fighters in the armed forces.

    -Zia’s reconciliatory statesmanship was, undoubtedly, remarkable in assembling leftists, rightists, centrists bounded with a common thread of those who believed and still believing in wiping out or, at least, distorting our history of independence against Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

    – The accomplished Barristers, Physicians, Professors, Editors and Judges are still in BNP camp, as they were assembled during Zia’s founding of BNP. They all shamelessly believe that democracy can be a gift of a military dictator! Many such instances were in our history we fought against as well as elsewhere in the world. Nothing unique that worth quoting to glorify a military dictator!

    – Shah Aziz was never a procedural choice (nothing to do with democratic practice); rather it was a natural and most trusted choice of Zia. If, however, Shah Aziz was shrewd, he was only an accomplished follower of his master Zia! Zia wanted to institutionalize his Bangladeshi Nationalism, spearheaded by believers in two-nation theory, against the spirit of Bengali nationalism- a secular ideal in our struggle for independence.

    – Zia forced many at the gunpoint to rally behind him in the war against the spirit of secular Bangladesh, and those who declined were imprisoned, tortured and intimidated in various ways to succumb. Who can tell us the truth behind MR Siddiqui’s defection? At least it was not Zia’s generosity or love for party democracy!

    – Labeling Zia as a political philosopher is appropriate only by propagating an absurd and miserable connotation of Bangladeshi Nationalism! The author has exactly done that.

    Lastly, thanks to Mr. Rumi that he could not escape but to write a truth at the outset “I hereby proclaim the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of our great national leader Bangabandhu…” (Mr. Rumi may kindly persuade BNP to also admit this fact, officially). This way slowly and gradually the whole truth of our history will be surfaced to grave the greatest lies of our contemporary history and wipe out the legitimacy of BNP’s politics in Bangladesh. Whatever the politics BNP holds or it defines is essentially rooted in the two-nation theory. The die-hard followers of BNP founder can only refute Bangladesh’s emergence was on the grave of two-nation theory, establishing it again on its soil is simply a denial of our legitimacy. BNP and its politics had never been in the scene, if they were not born and groomed during an era of an illegitimate regime led by a ruthless military dictator Ziaur Rahman!

    • FKS

      Just answer one question why such a big crowd at his ‘janaja’?

      • Towfique

        Undoubtedly, Zia gained a popularity amongst the people, which does not mean to give his rule a legality and the crimes he committed against the nation’s interest and future are forgiven and forgotten. FYI as a Muslim I was also in his Janaja and wanted to see his face!

  12. abdullah

    A valiant freedom fighter, Zia re-installed Shah Aziz, Abdul Alim, Saqa Chowdhury in politics. Under his patronage Golam Azam returned to Bangladesh. It is Zia who introduced “Allah Hafez” replacing hundred years traditional “Khoda Hafez”.

  13. mohammad ali

    We do not need this type of killer statesman.

    • sajjad

      Yup. We also did not need Mujib and his dreaded Rakkhi Bahini. We don’t need a commander-in-chief who declares war and then surrenders!

  14. Golam Mustafa

    Quote “Leading members of his party and government were the smartest physician, the smartest professor, the smartest accountant, the smartest barrister, the smartest editor and the wisest judge of that time” Unquote.
    What’s wrong with the author – lack of grammar sense or common sense?

    • Shahed

      Yes, but rather than bringing him back, Ziaur Rahman retained the appointment of this Awami League political appointee as the most vital ambassador of Bangladesh. His appointment was voluntarily terminated when he decided to run for MP election from Chittagong. To that effect he is the first US ambassador of Zia government.

      • Towfique

        First ambassador of Zia government, appointed by Mujib government. Is this the argument in giving credit to Zia?

    • BDeshi Mahathir

      Even if he was not appointed by Zia, keeping him ambassador there after his refusal to leave AL is a sign of greatness of Zia. It also depicts that Zia knew whom to trust for what position.

      However, wikipedia is not a reliable reference. Can we expect an answer on this point from the writer?

  15. sajjad

    Thanks Rumi Ahmed for a rare article on a rare hero.

    • Akash

      A rare hero indeed! He laid low and quiet, and waiting, when his colleagues went out to kill Mujib and his family. He was under house arrest or something when Khaled Mosharraf and others were shot. He was god knows where when army group went inside the jail to bayonet to death Tajuddin, Mansur Ali, Nazrul Islam and Qamruzzaman. He was valiant though in speeding up the execution of his saviour Col. Taher. If you think he was a hero of 1971, he was no better or less than many others.

  16. Hassan

    Thank you for such an informative article. Truth never can be kept suppressed and this article is a proof of that.

  17. Mohammad Zaman

    Rumi Bhai,

    For the next few years you may not be a desirable person to visit home.

    I appreciate your courage.


  18. Jibon

    An accurate description of late Ziaur Rahman. An outstanding document to set the records straight for the newer generations. Thank you bdnews24.com for publishing this piece.

    • sajjad

      Yes, we must also thank bdnews24.com for publishing the post. It was courageous of bdnews24.com to publish the piece when Awami League is in power.

      And my regrets that BNP never tried to publicise Zia’s contributions during its tenures to educate the blind supporters of Awami League.

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