Recent Comparison of Mujib and Zia
Mohammed Ahsan Rial
[This article was posted on an internet discussion forum in 1999. It is included in the archive because of the bridge-building spirit it reflects. The views expressed and information provided are the author's personal responsibility.]
There have been quite a number of very eloquent and fiery writings recently on the issues of the History of Bangladesh and the never ending comparison of two great personalities of the Bangladeshi political arena Late Sk. Mujibur Rahman and Late Ziaur Rahman. The respectable writers of these issues have drawn conclusive remarks about the comparative merits and their contribution to the formation of Bangladesh. I have been a silent spectator of the events that had lead to the creation of Bangladesh and have seen these personalities close enough to understand what did they stand for and what did they wish for our dear motherland.
I have had the great honor of having two intimate dinners with late Ziaur Rahman and had the opportunity of meeting him in his cantonment home to talk about the student unrest situation in Rajshahi Engineering College. Later, I had the honor of meeting him in Cairo to talk about the student problems facing the Bangladeshi expatriate students studying in Cairo. On all occasions of our meetings, he portrayed an image of a very positive thinker, a fast decision maker, down right to the point with no beating around the bush, a fervent motivator, a very fare judge of issues and above all very informed negotiator with all the traits of a staunch nationalist.
Presentation of these facts are no boasting but merely an effort to bring some credibility to the logical conclusions presented in my article. I did not have so many encounters with Sk. Mujib though, other than sitting in a room with his top aides and seeing him talking to them about what needs to happen in Rajshahi to bring up the "educational" image of the City. The image I had seen in that room was that of a radiant personality with tremendous sense of personal touch and tremendous personal power of connecting with people.
Let me share a very small story that will shed some light on this great personality and the enormity of his heart. Soon upon his arrival at the Circuit House of Rajshahi, he was given a guard of honor by the poorly organized local police force. This was his first visit to Rajshahi after his release from Pakistan. He walked in front of each police and inquired about theirs and their families well being in a very personal manner with his hands often on the shoulders of the police constables. This was obviously slowing down the pre-defined schedule which was already late by two hours. Two very prominent Awami Leaguers (without mentioning their names) were trying in vain to hurry Mujib out of this personal encounter with the police constables for very good reasons though. After completing his guard of honor, on his way to the second floor of the Circuit House, he turned back to the two leaders and whispered, they are the real heroes of this war, you and I are nothing compared to the sacrifices they have
endured in this war. This is my first trip here, how can I not pay the due respect.
By the time he went to the first floor, he looked back from the balcony and had seen the police constables already dispersed and having casual discussions. The voice roared from the first floor in Bangla "Toder discipline na thakley a desher kissu hobena, line vangishna, Tora line vangley adeshey shanti anbey kara?" The words were so simple, so unorthodox for a head of a nation yelling at police force from atop a building, but showed so much of who he was. A very unorthodox leader with so much of love for the real mass and so genuine a wish for their well being and so very generous and patient with his adversaries.
I have failed to understand why there is so much of a debate going on about the contributions of these two great personalities in realizing the dreams of our nation. They each had their role and contributions made. It was not that long ago that we can not recall what the facts were? We do not need to quote any third country national to establish the facts when 60% of the current population were alive and kicking during the time of the liberation war. Haven't we heard Sheikh Mujib speaking on the historic 7th of March in the Race Course? Don't we know what went on in the Agartala Case? Don't we know why Ayub Khan stepped down as the President of Pakistan and brought Yahia Khan to oversee the first democratic election of Pakistan? Don't we know what the results were of that election? Don't we know who was ruling East Pakistan after the results of the election was announced unenforceable by Yahia Khan? Do we know that the Dhaka Radio center was shut off totally when they were not allowed to broad cast Mujib's speech on the 7th of March?
Dear friends the whole nation (the then East Pakistan) was moving with the swaying of that single forefinger that Allah had implanted in the hands of Sheikh Mujib. He no longer belonged to Awami League at that point and time, he belonged to the whole nation. Respected leaders of opposition Vashani, Ataur Rahman, even Nurul Amin had accepted his leadership.
One of the respected writers has mentioned of the declaration of independence read by Major Ziaur Rahman from Chittagong. I would politely ask him to listen to the total declaration once again very carefully and see if there was any mention of any other name in his statement. It is so unfortunate that we are belittling such an honorable name "Zia" by proclaiming him as someone he himself had never claimed to be one. He was alive and had ruled this great nation of ours even after Sk. Mujib's unfortunate demise for quite some time. Had he ever claimed or even hinted to this desire of his. Zia was an honest man and he knew the facts and a man of his stature would not do such an injustice to the noble history of this nation. Let us not allow the sacred spirit of this great warrior and a hero of our turn in pain in the heaven wondering why are doing this disservice to the nation in his name.
It was quite surprising to read one of the respected writer's intonation of hinting at the surrender of Sk. Mujib to the Pakistani Army on the night of March 25. I do not know the literal meaning of the word itself but let me tell you that it definitely was not a surrender. If someone comes to your home and arrests you from your legitimate place of living for no apparent criminal reasons then it is definitely not a "surrender" rather an "abduction". Why should a leader flee his own home in fear of advancing enemies. I do not know how old the respected writer is but if you had known Sk Mujib well you would not have used the very word "surrender" in the same sentence containing Mujib's name. He did not know what surrender was or meant. He had spent a good part of his adult life behind the bars fighting for you, I and our children. We may not have the same mind set or the philosophy of life but diversity of belief is the beauty of this life that makes us prosper. One may not agree with one another but that dose not make one a bad person. We can always agree to disagree with due respect and honor for the position of the other but we do not need to go down the drain by slinging mud at one another.
In conclusion, I would urge everyone in this forum to show due respect to these two great personalities of our nation who has done so much for the well being of its people in their own ways. Let us not try to distort the facts that are so vivid in the hearts and minds of the generation who have seen first hand. I personally am proud of Mujib who I consider as the visionary and a revolutionary, who has spearheaded and lead our nation to independence. I am proud of Zia as a warrior, a hero who has been one of main operatives of our war of liberation and with others was able to implement the vision that Mujib had and later had successfully created a second force by aligning the disadvantaged freedom fighters with the right and that is definitely a force to reckon with.