Thus spake SQ Chy

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, known for his mannerisms and witticisms, sometimes in good taste, sometimes not, is noted for his mercurial flare for theatrics and antics.

Tanim Ahmedand Biswadip
Published : 1 Oct 2013, 02:56 PM
Updated : 1 Oct 2013, 02:56 PM

His barbs are likely to remain in public memory especially those regarding other politicians, even his party leader and more recently about the war crimes tribunal that has been Salauddin Quader’s only public exposure.

The six-time Chittagong MP maintained this audacity even during the war crimes trial that the judgment noted.

The eldest son of AKM Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, a Muslim League leader and an acting President and Parliament Speaker of Pakistan, Salauddin Quader changed parties a couple of times before settling as one of the key policymakers of BNP.

He drew much ire from within his party for a ‘witticism’ referring to Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman.

He had said, “It used to be that the dog wags the tail, but nowadays it’s the tail that wags the dog.”

This was an obvious reference to Tarique Rahman’s influence on his mother and thereby the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which was in office at that time, from 2001-6.

Then when he said ‘I don’t sleep under the same roof with a divorced woman’, referring to Khaleda, it created quite a ruckus within the party.

Soon after Khaleda took office and introduced a huge Cabinet, Salauddin Quader was appointed a prime ministerial advisor on law, justice and parliamentary affairs with the ‘rank and status of a minister’.

He scoffed at the proposition saying, “I have been made a concubine with the rank and status of a wife.” He did, however, accept the appointment.

Salauddin Quader’s tongue did not spare Awami League President Sheikh Hasina either. “It wouldn’t have missed if it were me,” he had said referring to a grenade attack of Aug 21, 2004 on an Awami League rally that killed 23 people but missed Hasina narrowly. The current prime minister escaped with damaged hearing but the grenades injured a number of people maiming many of them for life.

The maverick politician has long claimed to be “very close” with Hasina’s family. “In his student life Sheikh Mujib was a follower of my father,” he has been quoted as saying regarding Bangladesh’s independence hero, Hasina’s father.

In an effort to make his point that a certain portion of the Awami League was provoking the prime minister against him without even knowing what they were getting into, Salauddin Quader had said, “They have no idea that I am a stork where they are like fish.”

Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta had criticised the BNP-Jamaat alliance government’s move of nominating him for the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Who is he [Suranjit Sengupta] to talk on OIC? He can only talk about OIC if he cuts off the thingamajig that I had done in my childhood.”

The reference to circumcision, a Muslim rite not practised by Hindus, was obvious and left unsaid. But there was much uproar about this comment, which made headlines for a few days.

The Chittagong-2 MP even went on to say that the State Minister for Law Quamrul Islam was a “boy-toy”.

“Have I ever said he is a boy-toy of Keraniganj?” was a classic SQC comment.

During the war crimes trial there were several occasions when he spoke up pointing to what the junior law minister had said, mostly setting deadlines on trial verdicts.

He would refer to the junior minister as ‘my good friend Quamrul Islam, the great jurist’ with the naughtiest of smiles, following it up with such comments attributed to the minister that it would become clear Salauddin Quader was only making fun.

During the ninth parliamentary elections, he stated his educational qualification as “none”. The Election Commission then took an initiative to quash his parliament membership for furnishing ‘untrue’ information.

“Wheat-hustlers,” was what Salauddin Quader used to label the Election Commission. That was another obvious reference to one of the election commissioners, who had allegations of misappropriating a significant amount of wheat while serving in the army.

However, the process of annulling his membership did not bear fruit due to legal limitations.

Salauddin Quader hardly refrained from making his typical remarks during the war crimes trial either. Once, when Justice Nizamul Huq warned him of harsh consequences for his behaviour, Chowdhury said, “You can only hang me, sir.”

He was also quoted as saying, “If I am not hanged, no one will be hanged,” meaning that if anyone were to hang it would have to be him first.

“Don’t send me to a Kolkata prison,” he had said once, feigning imploration at the war crimes tribunal indicating the government’s close ties to India.

Over three years ago when Salauddin Quader’s arrest as a war criminal was imminent, he said he was ready to face arrest.

He said that war crimes trial was only a fad that would pass. When correspondent pointed out that he sounded “relaxed”, Salauddin Quader fired back, citing Confucius.

He said, “ When rape is inevitable ..., why not enjoy it.”

But the latest victim of his barbs has been the conducting prosecutor of the case, Zead-Al-Malum.

At one particular session Malum had been stopped short in his tracks by queries from a former tribunal judge, Zaheer Ahmed, regarding certain charges. While Malum stood speechless, visibly searching for an answer, Salauddin Quader said loudly enough for the whole court to hear, “Malum by name only, in fact he is totally ‘Bemalum (stupid)’.”

On another occasion, Malum stood before the court and referred to Salauddin Quader by an acronym — Saka, the first two initials of Chowdhury’s name as pronounced in Bengali.

The tribunal chairman reminded Malum that the BNP leader had clearly indicated he did not appreciate the nickname and preferred to be called by his full name.

Malum at that point stood before the court and said like a bullied toddler, “But he calls me Halum, my lord.”

The courtroom was exploded into laughter and the comment made quite a few headlines. ‘Halum’, which rhymes with Malum (pronounced Ha-loom and Ma-loom), is used to denote the roar of a tiger or lion.

On Tuesday, Justice ATM Fazle Kabir Chowdhury said in the judgment that Salauddin Quader Chowdhury had been elected an MP for six times. But, his behaviour towards the court was disrespectful and one that did not behove a lawmaker.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 sentenced Salauddin Quader to death for genocide and deadly torture in 1971.

The BNP Standing Committee member has been proven guilty on nine counts out of the 23 charges brought against him.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher