The 12th National Parliamentary Election of Bangladesh will be held only within a few months. The people of the country will choose their leadership for the next five years hoping that their elected representatives will be committed to their welfare as well as the country’s development. The people look for several qualities among their leaders, which make them significant from others. But as we talk about democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, rule of law and many things else surrounding the election, every leader must uphold some core ideology which is vested upon the concept of sovereignty, national progress and protection of civil rights.
Bangladesh has a history on which every Bangladeshi must take pride. We received our independence through a nine-month long bloody war. The 1971 liberation war was finally won under the bold leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the cost of three million lives and the honor of two lac women. But it is unfortunate that, many politicians of Bangladesh do not recognize the history of our liberation war as they uphold anti-nationalist ideology.
Suprisingly, former three-time Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Chairperson of the largest opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Begum Khaleda Zia expressed her doubt over the number of martyrs in 1971 despite being the wife of wartime Z-force commander ZiaurRahman. She herself was in captivity during the liberation war. But as her party created alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders are well known as holders of anti-liberation ideology, she also started creating doubt over the liberation war facts. A large political party of Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami was founded by the anti-liberation forces. They directly participated in taking so many lives and disgracing so many women during our war of independence. It is really amazing that Jamaat-e-Islami can actually do politics in independent Bangladesh.
It is more unfortunate that, leader of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), A S M AbdurRab, who was an organizer of the liberation war, recently said that, no Jamaat leaders committed any anti-human rights crime. If a leader like AbdurRab, who is respected for his contribution in the liberation war, declines a shameful incident during the liberation war, then the history of the country remains under great threat.
Though A S M Abdur Rab was an organizer of the 1971 liberation war and a freedom fighter, he, along with many others, did not surrender their arms after the war. With those arms, they formed JSD and started armed rebellion after 1971, when war-torn Bangladesh was struggling heavily to rebuild the nation. Many members of razakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams also joined JSD at that time and helped JSD to create heavy chaos inside the country and that eventually led to the brutal killing of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman with most of his family members.
After the killing of Bangabandhu, Jamaat-e-Islami came out as an independent political party and anti-liberation war personnel from JSD moved to Jamaat, which reduced the strength of JSD and they ultimately failed on their directionless cause. Though AbdurRab and his political comrades followed communism, they allied with different political parties with different ideology after 1975 to gain position at the parliament. They eventually moved far away for their ideology for the sake of their personal benefits and hence, they are nowhere today and cannot even win a single seat if Awami League or BNP does not give them the sit as a present by recognizing them as an ally.
Abdur Rab’s recent comment is unfortunate but not shocking as he is again trying to gain benefit by supporting anti-sovereignty forces. But, despite heavy potential, only due to lack of ideology, Rab along with many of his leftist comrades failed in Bangladeshi politics. Such is the reality with most of the leftist or rightist political parties of Bangladesh.
There are several other such incidents. Jamaat-e-Islami’s former top leader Ghulam Azam, who was trialed for 1971 war crimes, said they did not make any mistake in 1971 by aiding the Pakistani forces even few days before his arrest for war crimes. Surprisingly, he was elected Member of Parliament for multiple terms in independent Bangladesh. Reza Kibria, son of former Awami League Finance Minister Shah A M S Kibria, once told that, Bangabandhu was in comfort in Pakistan during the liberation war. Being the son of an Awami League leader, his comment came as a shock and is truly contradicting towards our history. But he made such remarks for the sake of his political career.
It is no surprise that, most of the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders uphold anti-liberation ideology. But it is surprising that, many leaders, who were once in support of the liberation war and upheld nationalist ideology, denied the facts of the liberation war and also doubted the depth of Bangabandhu’s leadership behind the rise of Bangladesh for the sake of their political career. These leaders actually do not have any ideology. There are many freedom fighters in BNP but they now talk at the same tone of Jamaat for their self-benefit.
The 1971 liberation war is our pride. It is time for the Bangladeshi government to enact legislation that will make it illegal for anybody to deny, contest, or embellish the facts of the war of 1971 or to defend those who have been found guilty of war crimes. There are still individuals in Bangladesh who consciously deny the genocide of 1971. Hence, we need to adopt law or legislation like in various European countries and US, which would criminalize the denial of the 1971 holocaust.
We have already surpassed 52 years of our independence. But it is unfortunate that, still our leaders are not united on the national issues. It portrays that, there is lack of nationalism among our leaders and that automatically disqualifies them to do politics in Bangladesh. This type of leaders will not be able to ensure development of the country or the security of the people. If leader with no principles get to the power, the country will always remain under threats of rise of anti-sovereignty and fundamental forces and Bangladesh can even become a fundamental nation, which no progressive Bangladeshi actually want. Our leaders, irrespective of the political party, must uphold the ideology of 1971 liberation war as it also includes principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Leaders are expected to uphold these principles to ensure good governance, protect individual rights, and promote social justice for the sake of the people’s welfare.
We are constantly talking about democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and rule of law. But if we are not united on the history of the country’s freedom, then these debates are useless as the country is under constant threat from anti-sovereignty principles. There will be political differences just like any other democracies but all political parties and leaders must remain united on the principles related to the basis of the country. For example, in our neighboring country India, there are different political parties with different visions. But in terms of their national interest, they are always united. Therefore, Our liberation war as well as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman should remain out of any debate. We must also act patriotic and nationalistic for the progress of this nation.
The young generation of Bangladesh is very much aware of the ongoing political events. It is not easy to make them biased to certain ideology as they are open towards information and receiving more education than it used to happen in the past. The young voters will cast their votes based on ideology and the leaders of all political parties should act proactively to promote their political principles to the young generation if they want to survive in Bangladeshi politics.
We also hope that, the people of Bangladesh will be careful to choose their leadership in the next national parliamentary election as the next few years is going to be very challenging economically and without right leadership, we cannot sustain our development. Moreover, a leader with no nationalistic principle can never serve the people’s interests and we, as voters, need to realize that. At the end of the day, we are liable for the future of this nation and the future of ourselves.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla