This was cinematic excellence — in reality. As a dramatic turn of events led to war criminal Quader Molla's scheduled death sentence to be postponed from one minute past midnight 11th of December 2013 to 10.30 am the following morning, Bangladeshis all around the world sat suspended like a pendulum. To add a tad more seasoning to the tale, Human Rights Watch 'asked' Bangladesh government to stall the death sentence against the convicted, on grounds of 'fair trial concerns'. The climax involved an eleventh-hour appeal skilfully manoeuvred towards the Bangladesh Supreme Court, only to be eventually cast down earlier on Thursday, leading to his execution at 10.00 pm, 12th December. The much talked about spectacle concerning history, freedom, independence and justice that this year had kicked off with was coming to a close, amidst contention, debacle and more popularly politicised criticism, with equal amount of zeal, like most other contemporary tumults this country has witnessed time and again.
Being the daughter of a freedom fighter (and I make no ceremonious overture to this identity exactly like my father never claimed a first-class citizenship out of it!) it grieves me to see such a mockery made out of our independence. After 42 years of soot being rubbed on his nose in the name of a free nation, I think my father too had resorted to nonchalance at the prospect of retribution – until Shahbagh happened of course. A promise to salvation that the formation of this glorified "Projonmo Chottor" dangled, ever so briefly, was mercilessly snatched away in these 24 hours, stripping even the last shred of dignity and oblivion that these ex-soldiers of freedom had started to live with.
It must have been tormenting enough to have watched the same men who had committed utter atrocities against not only our countrymen, but humanity at large, to roam scot-free on the same soil where the gruesome acts were committed, but to witness the same foreign powers intervene once again, attempting to avert justice overdue at this point, was a disgrace. I woke up this morning, counting my blessings for not having lived 1971 myself – I cannot see how anyone from that generation would have the will to live after experiencing this shameful shenanigan.
So, do I feel jubilation, celebrating and handing out sweets at Quader Mollah's death, if you ask me – I would have to decline. He deserved much worse and this was only a saving grace. I for one have never been in favour of capital punishment as I fail to see any constructive resolution through this medium. Being an internationalist, my attitude has always been to address a problem and eliminate the root of it – take proactive measures not reactive! It was all hunky dory in theory until I started living in Bangladesh and experienced the issues at a grassroots level. If the ground reality has taught me anything, it is the fact that a nation is like an individual, with its own set of attributes and its solutions need to be catered and bespoke to its own characteristics; no matter how inexplicable it may seem to the rest of the world. The truth is that this nation has not truly achieved freedom, not yet, not until it eliminates this lingering hangover inspired by the very motivators who had raged the war in the first place. If the truth is so bare, has been for so long and no citizen can deny it, then where was the room for foreign persuasion and chaperoning and what did they wish to achieve?
The time has come for the citizens of Bangladesh to realise that every form of intervention, be it aid or liaison, comes with its own vested interest. The diplomatic relations ought to be a two-way street, keeping our own long-term sustainability in mind and if so much interest is shown into our internal affairs, then perhaps we are overlooking the fact that there must be something at stake here, worth bickering over – worth protecting! If we take a leaf out of any significant player in international politics today, Iran would be the best example of how not to be a tough negotiator, but a smart one – enabled to enrich nuclear material to produce power, at the same time bowing down to allowing enough regulations to ensure it could not be used to produce a weapon. The outcome being the resolution of dispute, circumvention of war and yet being able to operate the production plant!
The image of Bangladesh has been blotted in the international eye for quite some time now and it cannot be reversed overnight. May be it is time we re-think our strategy. In a last-ditch attempt to improve our image in the short-run, if we jeopardize the last chance of acquiring a clean-slate on which a plausible future could be built, independence will sadly evade us once again. Forty-two years ago, right at this very moment, when we fought ahead with nothing to lose, we were as alone in the battlefield as we are today, faced with a much worse predicament.
If we have transcended from nil capital, baffled identities, ill political manoeuvring, death of intellectuals, plight that came from natural disasters, continually striking us down then it is safe to say perhaps that we have grown up to take our own decisions now. If we had achieved victory then, independently, then what is stopping us now?
Naaz Fahmida, an HR specialist and Communication Advisor, is also a proud daughter of a freedom fighter.