Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The guiding light of Bangladesh

What is charismatic leadership? Charismatic leadership is defined by a leader who uses his or her communication skills, persuasiveness, and charm to influence others

Professor Bashir Ahmed Feb 17, 2021
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What is charismatic leadership? Charismatic leadership is defined by a leader who uses his or her communication skills, persuasiveness, and charm to influence others. Charismatic leaders, given their ability to connect with people on a deep level, are especially valuable within organizations that are facing a crisis or are struggling to move forward.

Alluring pioneers can rouse people to complete things or improve the manner in which certain things are finished. Charismatic leadership can be considered to be of divine origin. Moreover, this leader can be a positive role model for his followers.

'Greatest Bengali of our time'

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman can be described as one such charismatic leader, who is perhaps among the best leaders on the planet, a most noteworthy Bengali, supreme commander of the Liberation War, Father of the Nation and the founder of independent Bangladesh. He was a bold and die-hard pioneer. He was the leading force who was able to free the people from repression from the rule of East Pakistan, despite spending almost one-fourth of his nearly 55 years of life in prison.

He can be easily counted as the greatest Bengali of our times. The first time he went to jail was when as a schoolboy, in his hometown of Tungipara. But he was taken to a jail in East Pakistan for the first time on March 11, 1948, when he was agitating with other students against the West Pakistani move to make Urdu the only state language of Pakistan.

Incarceration hardened him 

He was in prison for a much longer period when he was arrested once more in October 1949 for leading anti-government protests in East Pakistan which had gathered considerable momentum by this time. He was again jailed for another six-month in 1954. He had to spend 14 months in prison from October 1958 after General Ayub Khan imposed martial law in Pakistan in 1958. He was jailed yet again in February 1962 for a short time. Two weeks before the 1964 elections held by Ayub Khan to legitimise his rule, Bangabandhu was jailed once more, this time for 14 days. In 1965 again he spend time in jail. In 1966, when he spearheaded the Six-Point Movement for the complete autonomy of East Pakistan, he was imprisoned yet again. This time, however, when he was released on February 23, 1968, he galvanised public opinion and led the Awami League to an overwhelming victory in the national elections held in December 1970. But yet again, he was arrested again in 1971 and taken to West Pakistan. He was released for the last time from Pakistani prison on January 8, 1972, soon after the birth of Bangladesh. He then returned home to the land that he had led to independence.

One can easily say that his incarceration hardened him enough to arrive at a definitive objective and that was freedom for his country.

Nationalism, secularism, socialism, and democracy as the four columns that were principal to Sheik Mujib's political philosophy. It is generally viewed that, political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state, government, politics, liberty, justice, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority. Bangabandhu is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of modern political thoughts.

For Bangladeshis, Bangabandhu was our George Washington (founding father and first president of the US) by vision and by affiliation Abraham Lincoln (16th president of the US) and Mahatma Gandhi (the apostle of peace).

Clarion call for independence 

Bangabandhu’s historic speech on March 7, 1971, on the Race Course Maidan, is most memorable in the minds of the people. “This may be my last message; from today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you might be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.” Great men and leaders of the world are great because of their sacrifice and love for the country and countrymen. We feel proud of such sacrifice and love of Bangabandhu. 

Bangabandhu held the new country’s prime ministerial post, and became a celebrated icon, even around the world, who was admired for his moving speeches and charismatic personality.  He made history by accomplishing many things despite his short tenure.

He had once announced, “I would like it (Bangladesh) to become the Switzerland of the East.” His underlying belief was to make Bangladesh similar to Switzerland. He wanted Bangladesh to maintain peace, to augment economic development, promote tourism, and preserve a neutral gesture to the polarized global politics.

He set bedrock of foreign policy 

While drafting the ever first constitution, Bangabandhu set up the bedrock of Bangladesh’s foreign policy framework with his remarkable dictum “friends with all, malice towards none” reflecting the second inaugural address of the US president Abraham Lincoln. This maxim is still an inseparable part of the present Bangladesh government through its engagement with other nation-states.

After achieving independence, he secured a respectful position for Bangladesh in the comity of nations and took all necessary measures and initiatives that were needed for the survival of the country. The current flourishing Bangladesh has been based upon the principles that Bangabandhu set in his just three-and-a-half year-long tenure. The best achievement of Bangabandhu was that he could set up a free and sovereign nation for his people.

(The writer is Professor of Government and Politics and the Provost, Sheikh Hasina Hall, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka. The views are personal. He can be contacted at bashir@juniv.edu)

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