The assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman triggered the start of the darkest period in Bangladesh’s history, according to one academic.
The devastating incident sparked a series of disasters, from the initial military coup, the killings of the four national leaders in jail, several counter-coups and, ultimately, the rehabilitation of Bangabandhu’s killers, said Prof Shams Rahman of the College of Business and Law and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
He made the remarks during a webinar titled ‘1975 Bangladesh and the World: A Grand Reform and Carnage’, organised by the Awami League’s Centre for Research and Information on Friday, which he moderated.
The discussion covered a range of topics, including Bangabandhu’s role in securing Bangladesh’s recognition as an independent state around the world, the formation of a secular constitution and the involvement of Ziaur Rahman in conspiracies following independence.
“After its victory, Bangladesh was waiting for Bangabandhu’s homecoming. At the time India had recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign country. But the big countries, like the UK, US, Russia, and China were withholding their recognition," said Maliha Ahmed, a London School of Economics graduate, whose research is titled 'Bangladesh’s Path to Recognition, 1971-1974'.
“Pakistan didn’t recognise Bangladesh until 1974. All of these things were a big barrier to Bangladesh’s entry into the UN. So, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman worked on it and handled many meetings between different nations to earn recognition from Pakistan as a sovereign country,” she added.
Pakistan agreed to grant recognition in exchange for their prisoners of war. Once Pakistan agreed, China dropped its veto, allowing Bangladesh to become a member of the UN. Pakistan’s recognition also led to a domino effect as more countries began to recognise Bangladesh as a sovereign state, she said.
“Bangabandhu, since he was a young star, became the leader of Bangladesh and turned the country’s predominantly religious perspective into a secular one,” said author and historian Sudeep Chakravarti. “Now Bangladesh is practising secularism better than India. Not just that, Bangladesh’s GDP growth is also very admirable. Bangladesh has the second largest garments sector in the world.”
Dr Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said BNP founder Ziaur Rahman had designs on undermining the independent Bangladesh government.
"The evidence is provided by Rehman Sobhan. Ziaur Rahman wanted to meet Rehman Sobhan around the same time. Rehman Sobhan was working late in his office and Ziaur Rahman came to meet him. In the course of their discussion, Ziaur Rahman told him he had known that Rehman Sobhan and other members would leave the planning commission," he said.
To back up his claim, Mashiur gave another example where the army exhibited his pro-Pakistan sentiment during Zia’s tenure.
"Incidentally, when Bangabandhu was still the prime minister, there was a case involving the uniform of the army. And the decision was made to import textile materials from India. The defence establishment's response was that India's textile material was of inferior quality -- that India’s army uniform was of inferior quality and in Pakistan, the textile material for the uniform was of much better quality. They claimed it would impact adversely the morale of the army. It is very funny. It indicates the kinds of aspirations that the military establishment entertained."
"If you link it with Ziaur Rahman's posture on smuggling, you will find that there was an attempt to discredit, as you put it very nicely, the administration, but also to call into question the relationship with India," he added.
He also warned that those who conspired against Bangabandhu were still around.