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The knives are out

  • Published at 06:06 pm November 7th, 2018
Kamal Hossain
A trusted lieutenant of the Father of the Nation MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Why is the integrity of Dr Kamal Hossain being questioned?

Some days ago, a former judge of the nation’s Supreme Court informed those who would listen that Kamal Hossain had been a collaborator of Pakistan in 1971. He based his accusation on a book by one of the Pakistani military officers involved in launching and perpetuating the genocide in Bangladesh. 

Let there be a caveat here -- every book written by Pakistani military officers responsible for the killing of Bengalis disseminates untruth. The upshot? These writers, with blood on their hands, are not to be touched with a barge pole.

Again, if Kamal Hossain is a collaborator, how does one explain the fact that it was none other than Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who flew with him and his family to London in January 1972? 

The Father of the Nation is on record with his statement that in the nine months in which he was kept in solitary confinement in Pakistan, the Yahya Khan junta exercised immense pressure on Kamal Hossain to testify against him before the military tribunal set up to try him in Mianwali. Kamal Hossain looked upon the pressure with disdain.

Questioning Kamal Hossain’s integrity is, in essence, questioning the judgment of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The bare truth has always been out there, which is that Kamal Hossain too was in solitary confinement, in Haripur. His trial would have begun if only Pakistan’s army had not lost the war and surrendered in Dhaka. 

But of course, the knives are out for this trusted lieutenant of the Father of the Nation.

A journalist said not very long ago that Kamal Hossain had betrayed Bangabandhu’s family after the assassination. Not much of an explanation came from him to substantiate his accusation. The fact remains, though, that Dr Kamal Hossain’s was the most pivotal role in ensuring Sheikh Hasina’s return to the country from exile in May 1981 to take over the leadership of the Awami League. That does not quite look like betrayal, does it?

The links between Sheikh Hasina and Kamal Hossain, prior to the chasm which was to develop between them, were strong enough for the AL chief to have the man who served in her father’s government as minister for law and minister for foreign affairs go forth as the AL presidential nominee in November 1981. 

One certainly does not spot any sign of betrayal here on Kamal Hossain’s part. Neither does one detect any inclination on Sheikh Hasina’s part to undermine Kamal Hossain. If Kamal Hossain did not betray Bangabandhu in 1971, how could he have betrayed his daughters after 1975?

Of course, the knives go on being sharpened against Bangladesh’s sole elder statesman, which Kamal Hossain surely is today. 

In recent times, elements purporting to pronounce judgment on Kamal Hossain’s religious beliefs have attempted to disseminate the canard that he is a Qadiani, or in simpler parlance an Ahmadiyya. 

Those who have come up with such outrageous views of the former foreign minister were clearly aiming to push him into a corner by using that falsity of a religious card. This is for the first time that Dr Kamal Hossain’s faith has been dragged into the public domain. It is a political low for those behind this innuendo. How much lower can some people get?

Kamal Hossain is not new to falsehood woven around his personality and his career. During the War of Liberation, the otherwise excellent program Charampatra often went into overdrive in condemning his “collaboration” with the Pakistani military junta at the time. 

When he returned to Bangladesh with Bangabandhu, the amazement among those who had been conditioned to anti-Kamal Hossain sentiments was not missed. Everyone fell silent, in contrition.

Over the years, Kamal Hossain has been tarred with multifarious brushes of calumny. He has not been able to win elections, it has been said in sinister tones. The better point here would be to raise the question of the extent to which his party, in this case, the AL, campaigned for him.

One of the criticisms of Kamal Hossain has been that he has never been a mass leader. That is perfectly true, but what such criticism ignores is the academic approach Kamal Hossain has always brought to his pursuit of politics. His politics have always been a formulation based on Western parliamentary democracy. 

He is not remarkable for oratory, but he is comfortable in deal-making in the inner sanctum of parliament. That was the approach he brought into the process of constitution-making in 1972. It was a similar position he adopted in his diplomatic dealings with other nations as foreign minister.

But the knives glisten in the night for Kamal Hossain.

He is a collaborator. He has betrayed people. He is a closet Qadiani. 

And how would Bangabandhu respond to all these insinuations and innuendo against the man whose intellectual abilities and political loyalty he recognized early on? The Jatiyo Sangsad empowered Kamal Hossain to chair the constitution-drafting committee in 1972. The Father of the Nation appointed him to the cabinet, first as law minister and then as foreign minister. 

Kamal Hossain remembers his last meeting with Bangabandhu before he left on an official visit to Europe in early August 1975. As he was about to leave Ganabhaban after saying farewell to the president, he was called back by a beaming Bangabandhu. 

“When you come back home,” the Father of the Nation told his foreign minister, “you will have good news.” As Kamal Hossain waited expectantly for Bangabandhu to continue, Bangladesh’s founding father told him: “Tajuddin Ahmad is coming back into the government.”

A buoyed, cheerful Kamal Hossain sprinted out of Ganabhaban.

Bangabandhu was certainly not confiding in a collaborator of Pakistan, was he? 

Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor-in-Charge of The Asian Age.