Syed Badrul Ahsan
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has given us new food for thought. The Awami League (AL), he has taken care to inform us, has always been supportive of unconstitutional military regimes. Before we go on any further, a clarification becomes necessary here. All military regimes by definition are unconstitutional and therefore illegal. There is hardly any military regime in history and in any part of the globe that can even remotely be described as legal or de jure. So there we are.
Now, to the BNP acting secretary general's charge that the Awami League has always supported military regimes and, by insinuation, has benefited from the arrival and presence of such regimes. That again is a deliberate misreading as also misrepresentation of history. The A L has been one political force in our part of the world -- and that means going all the way back to its formation in June 1949 -- which has consistently and successfully waged a series of battles against successive military regimes in Pakistan and Bangladesh. When other political parties went carefully into the business of being accommodative of the military regime of Ayub Khan, the AL made it known that it would have no truck with the army where an exercise of political power was concerned. It was the AL's sustained movement on the Six Points which led to the collapse of the Ayub regime in March 1969. And do not forget that when an embattled Ayub Khan offered the prime ministership of Pakistan to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the latter contemptuously rejected it out of hand.
And yet the BNP leader speaks of AL happiness in the company of military regimes. When in 1970, the Yahya Khan junta decreed a legal framework order for Pakistan's political parties as they approached the country's first general elections, it was the AL which gave short shrift to the LFO and instead went ahead with its own assessment of the elections being a referendum on the Six Points. The AL could well have accommodated the Pakistan People's Party in a grand coalition after December 1970. It chose instead to uphold the popular mandate in its favour and therefore the national interest and paid a heavy price for it in March 1971. It then spearheaded the movement for national liberation and in the end freed Bangladesh not only of a military regime but of also of the state of Pakistan itself. Does anyone have any complaints here?
Every BNP politician is certainly an honourable figure. And yet something of a disturbing note comes into that perception of honour when the party seeks to revise history in its own partisan interests. Has the AL collaborated with the military in its pursuit of politics? Observe the record. The government of Bangabandhu Sheikh 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 supplanted it? It was again soldiers who put an end to the lives of the four national leaders -- Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, M. Mansur Ali and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman -- at Dhaka central jail in November 1975. That was surely no sign of AL support for military rule in the country, was it?
Any distortion of history is a reprehensible affair. If someone were to suggest that the BNP believes in democracy, one would not argue with such a line of reasoning. Perhaps it does. But that ought not to make one forget that the BNP, much like the Convention Muslim League in Ayub Khan's time, was forged under the direct tutelage of the Ziaur Rahman dictatorship in the country. There is more. When army chief H.M. Ershad began to demand a political role for the military in the administration of the country in late 1981 and early 1982, the elected BNP government of President Abdus Sattar did nothing to put him in his place, indeed to have him removed from his position. It was then 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.
The extent to which the idea of the A L supporting military regimes in the country becomes a clear falsehood was demonstrated by the decision of the party to challenge the Ershad regime through taking part in the parliamentary elections of 1986. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party chose to stay away from the voting. The result was predictable: the Ershad regime got four extra years in power. Mirza Alamgir has accused the AL of having supported the Fakhruddin-led caretaker government in 2007. He could have gone a few steps further, to tell us that it was an entire country which welcomed the dismissal of the Iajuddin caretaker coterie in January 2007. President Iajuddin Ahmed's assumption of office as chief advisor of the caretaker government was a violation of the constitution. Had he and his team not been ejected from office, the country would have imploded in all the intensity of political disaster.
Reflecting on history is a most healthy intellectual exercise. Trying to revise it or rewrite it is a pointed, planned and organised attempt at widening political divisiveness and deepening political tribalism in the land. False history was what we lived through between 1975 and 1996. Must we go through that dark tunnel again?
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star.
The Daily Star, 27 June 2012