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Let us not take the side of war criminals

  • Published at 06:16 pm February 7th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:09 am February 8th, 2018
Let us not take the side of war criminals
There has been yet another shocker from Khaleda Zia’s BNP. It adopted a condolence resolution in its party meeting for executed Pakistani collaborator and war criminal Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury. As the country heads towards general elections in the coming December, one wonders how BNP can even think of returning to power keeping its best friend Pakistan by its side to rule many of its decisions. The party’s pro-Pakistani stand has been clear since its birth under the leadership of General Ziaur Rahman, who was also decorated with the gallantry award of Bir Uttom. Zia was quick to rehabilitate every single Pakistani collaborator, including Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Ghulam Azam, paving a way back to Pakistanization and Islamization of specially tailored religious dictates to cling to power. I will state two examples of General Zia’s pro-Pakistani stand: One before the Independence War started, while the other after 1975. The Zia couple’s visit The Zia couple came to visit my father, seven years senior to him in the army, a few days before March 26, 1971, at our residence in Panchlaish in the port city of Chittagong. Soon after, my father, Lt Col M Abdul Qadir, asked mother, Hasna Hena, to leave the living room as he had something confidential to discuss with General Zia. Both Khaleda Zia and my mother moved to the adjacent room. I heard my father yell at General Zia, and soon the couple left hurriedly leaving my father in a very upset mood. Years later, my mother told me about that incident: When my father asked General Zia (then a major) to be a member of a resistance group on orders of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in order to face an imminent military clash with the Pakistanis, the young officer had refused. “We are not sure if there will be a Bangladesh at all. I do not want to be hanged as a traitor (by the Pakistanis). I am not with you” -- my mother quoted the future president. My father had told my mother that Zia’s refusal was a loss for those fighting for independence as General Zia was a capable military personnel.
The young generation and women voters, who thronged the Janatar Mancha to demand the execution of war criminals, must ask about these facts before they vote
My father had followed Bangabandhu’s order to group up Bengali defense officers and soldiers, in case talks failed after he had secretly met the supreme leader -- soon after his release from the Agartala conspiracy case. Our next meeting with the general was at his home in Dhaka Cantonment when he started to rule Bangladesh, (where his wife stayed for many years illegally). To our shock and dismay, at the time, President Zia denied my mother’s request to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (as instructed by Bangabandhu) and instead transferred her to our hometown Rangpur as a field officer under the Social Welfare Ministry. My mother was shocked by the insult, and questioned how the general’s capability of being a true freedom fighter despite having no no respect for a fellow fighter, who sacrificed his life for Bangladesh, and who is also seven years senior to him. A project to honour my martyred father as promised by Bangabandhu was also abandoned, and the Qadirabad Cantonment in Natore district only materialised after his death. A freedom fighter’s son? My younger brother Naweed faced strange complications when he introduced himself as the son of a martyred freedom fighter after the 1975 assassination of Bangabandhu. He wrote: “It seemed that it was a shame to be a son of a freedom fighter,” in a chapter of my book Muktijuddho: Ojana Oddhya. The trend continued when BNP condoled the death of a Pakistani army general in parliament when the party was in power and the induction of war criminals -- Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed and Motiur Rahman Nizami -- in to Khaleda Zia’s 2001 cabinet, with Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury getting special status. All three were convicted of war crimes and later executed under Sheikh Hasina’s current cabinet. Which side are you on? With the latest show of sympathy and love for Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, BNP and Khaeda Zia have once again given the nation a clear message: If we return to power, once again Pakistanization will ensue as Pakistan remains our master. I would also like to shed some light for those who label the ruling Awami League as Indian “dalals.” Being close to a friend who stood by us during the 1971 war and joined the final push on the war front to end the Pakistani genocide, as well as helping our eventual victory following a nine-month long guerilla war, is a gesture of gratitude, not an act of treason. The Bangladesh-India relationship has also been beneficial because of the trust the leaders of the two neighbouring countries enjoy, while ties with Pakistan were untenable, with our diplomats failing to undertake real strategies to make Pakistan seek forgiveness from the people of Bangladesh for one of the worst genocides in history. Islamabad too had proven its failure to understand the sensibilities of the majority of Bangladeshis about war criminals like Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury. The nation must remain alert and be aware of the facts as we head towards another crucial poll in December this year. We need to decide whether we want a leader who loves war criminals or a leader who punishes Pakistani dalals and collaborators. The young generation and women voters, who thronged the Janatar Mancha to demand the execution of war criminals, must ask about these facts before they vote. We have been labelled ungrateful for killing Bangabandhu. Let us not be ungrateful to his worthy daughter Sheikh Hasina who took steps to earn the respect of the global community. Nadeem Qadir is a UN Dag Hammarskjold Fellow in journalism.