Why Bangabandhu was, among other things, a great administrator
After the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family in 1975, various attempts were made to spread rumours about his incompetence, saying that he was a great political leader, one who could mobilize the people for the independence of Bangladesh, but that he was an inefficient administrator and failed ruler.
That campaign is still going on. Last month, on the birth anniversary of Tajuddin Ahmed, the first prime minister of Bangladesh, a similar observation was resonated. There have been brawls on social media regarding this. Even Tajuddin’s son, a former state minister, Sohel Taj, has spoken about the issue on behalf of the Taj family.
Interestingly, some people want to project Tajuddin as an efficient administrator in an attempt to prove that Bangabandhu was not an efficient ruler. There is no doubt that Tajuddin was an honest, simple, and straightforward man.
In the nine months of the War of Independence, he duly fulfilled his duties on behalf of Bangabandhu. But it is also true that, in those nine months of the war, if there was not a skilled, majestic woman like Indira Gandhi by Tajuddin’s side, the expatriate government of Bangladesh would have ruined the independence by itself.
The short-sighted, reckless Bangladeshi leaders around Tajuddin, who would put pressure on him, did not allow him to succeed. This can be proven by reviewing the history and analyzing the behaviour of the people around the expatriate government of Bangladesh based in Kolkata.
A leader behind bars
I don’t think now it’s relevant to name those people just for controversy’s sake. The nation saw their arrogance even during the rule of Bangabandhu.
Bangabandhu was born on March 17, 1920. He was shot dead together with his wife, sons, and other family members on August 15, 1975. In his 55 years of life, he was in jail for about 14 years. During the 23-year-rule of Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib went to jail 18 times.
For the rest of his life, Bangabandhu was in power, from January 10, 1972 to August 14, 1975, as the prime minister, and president for three years and seven months. His successes and failures as an administrator must be judged by what he had done in these 43 months and five days of power.
When he returned from prison in Pakistan, he was first sworn in as prime minister and Justice Abu Saeed Chowdhury was made president. He took charge of the Ministry of Public Administration and Defense in his cabinet.
A quick constitution
Bangabandhu had a bitter experience with the system of governance in Pakistan. So, he was the first to start drafting the constitution. The constitution was ratified on November 4, 1972, which came into force on December 16, 1972. Within a year, the constitution was drafted and the first parliamentary elections were held on March 7, 1973 based on the new constitution.
And you see, after Pakistan became independent, it took nine years to write the constitution. It also took about three years to draft the constitution of India, where a large number of eminent lawyers led by BR Ambedkar were involved. The constitution of India is called the Lawyer’s Constitution.
Bangladesh was praised in the world for getting the constitution written in a very short time. It was Bangabandhu’s passion for constitutional governance that inspired him to formulate the constitution first.
Another thing to mention here is that the Awami League was committed to the parliamentary system of government.
That is why Bangabandhu resigned from the post of president of the first government of Bangladesh and became the prime minister. If he had been president, the parliamentary system of government would have been frustrated.
Such a situation emerged after the birth of Pakistan. Though Pakistan had a parliamentary system of government, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali did not have power. As long as Muhammad Ali Jinnah lived and was the governor-general or president of Pakistan, he was the centre of power.
If there was a parliamentary system of government in Bangladesh, Bangabandhu would have been at the centre of power if he had been the president. That’s why he resigned as president and became prime minister when he started his journey as head of government.
The Fourth Amendment
However, after the Fourth Amendment to the constitution, Bangabandhu established the presidential system and assumed the office of president. The one-party Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Baksal) system was introduced because the country’s law and order was on the verge of breaking down.
Communist leaders like Comrade Toaha, Comrade Abdul Haq, Comrade Matin, Comrade Alauddin left Bhasani’s National Awami Party and took initiative to carry out a communist revolution through the secret organization.
The country’s economy collapsed for the misconduct of Siraj Sikder’s followers.
Looting jute warehouses and setting them on fire, it was the violent method of Siraj Sikder’s Purba Banglar Sarbahara Party, an underground communist party in Bangladesh. But, at that time jute was the only valuable crop, the source of earning foreign exchange.
Sirajul Alam Khan, Major Abdul Jalil, ASM Abdur Rab, Shahjahan Siraj, among others, went crazy trying to establish “scientific socialism” by ousting the Mujib government. They formed Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JASAD) in 1972 and got a bunch of talented youths from the AL’s student wing Chhatra League as it had become split by that time.
Many young freedom fighters joined JASAD. Realizing the opportunity to destabilize the government as well as save their lives, many Pakistani collaborators’ sons also joined them. They had no other strong platform for their goal. They left JASAD soon after the assassination of Bangabandhu.
Bangabandhu finally had to take the initiative to defend the country by employing the Rakkhi Bahini, an elite paramilitary force formed on February 1972 through an act. If strict measures were not taken at that time to protect the country, it would have suffered irreparable damage in the chaos.
Indian troops would never have left Bangladesh if the root of pro-China politics had remained strong. At that time, the politics of beheading Naxalites was going on in the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal.
Under such circumstances, there was no reason for Indian troops to withdraw from Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib is a “dictator” if he takes a firm stand to curb anomalies through the Rakkhi Bahini, and Sheikh Mujib is an “incompetent ruler” if he does not take firm action against lawlessness -- this was the paradoxical fate of Sheikh Mujib!
There were rumours that India did not want Bangladesh to form a regular army. India wanted a paramilitary like Rakkhi Bahini.
But Bangabandhu sent Indian troops out of Bangladesh and formed the Bangladesh Army with the Bengali army officers who took part in the war and who had been trapped in Pakistan during the war.
He established the Bangladesh Military Academy in Comilla in 1973, intending to form a new generation army, which was later shifted to Bhatiary in Chittagong. The Bangabandhu government formed the Bangladesh Navy and the Bangladesh Air Force.
Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) was established in June 1975 to ensure a safe border which has now been renamed Border Guard Bangladesh. And the Bangladesh Police, who first resisted the Pakistani aggressors in the War of Independence, had already been formed in 1840.
It is difficult to understand how difficult it is to build a new nation. In 1972, Bangladesh printed its first currency by depositing Adamjee Jute Mill and Karnaphuli Paper Mills as security, and one Pakistani rupee was replaced by one Bangladeshi taka.
Bangabandhu repaired all the war-torn roads and brought everything back to normal.
But international and domestic conspirators killed Bangabandhu and stopped his dream of building this country into Golden Bangla. Otherwise, Bangladesh could have made far more progress.
Those who enjoy saying that Bangabandhu was incompetent as an administrator are lying maliciously. The leader who fought and liberated a nation, how could he become a bad administrator?
As a leading soldier of the Pakistan movement, Bangabandhu formed a new political party against the oppression of the Pakistanis and snatched independence from the Pakistanis under the leadership of that party.
If that person were an incompetent administrator, how would it possible to take a political party to power and achieve independence under his leadership? I would like to advise those who campaign that Bangabandhu is not an efficient ruler to rethink the matter.
The man you call incompetent is compared in international newspapers and books to George Washington, the founding president of the United States, and Eamon de Valera, the founding president of Ireland.
Anis Alamgir is a journalist and columnist, famed for live reports from Iraq and Afghan wars. He can be reached at [email protected]