To understand and determine the position of Tarique Rahman in the national politics of Bangladesh, one has to look first at Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman, a legendary statesman, emerged through the passage of history as one of the most popular leaders of our time. Otherwise an unknown young military officer, stationed in Chittagong as a Major of 8 East Bengal Regiment, he took the courage of declaring the independence of a new sovereign state now called Bangladesh in the face of the onslaught of the Pakistan Army on the unarmed people of East Pakistan. In the absence of the political leaders who had so long led the people to struggle for a self-rule for the Bengalis, it was the voice of Ziaur Rahman broadcasted over the radio from Kalurghat transmission outlet, in the afternoon of 27th March 1971, which inspired millions of people to start a war and ultimately liberated the country in December 1971.
After the glorious victory in the war, Ziaur Rahman returned to his professional position in the Bangladesh Army, while the political leaders took the responsibility to govern the new nation. In less than four years on 15th August 1975, the people faced a national tragedy when some army officers killed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who only five months before had turned the country into a one-party monolithic rule to become the omnipotent President of the new Republic. With the demise of Sheikh Mujib, the government was taken over by Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, a senior leader of his own party, by imposing Martial Law in the country. After 2 months and 18 days, on 3rd November, in a countercoup, the Chief of General Staff Khaled Mosharraf put
Ziaur Rahman, the Chief of Army Staff, under house arrest and reversed the country to the hegemony of the neighboring state of India. As an instant reaction, it caused a spontaneous public uprising on 7th November 1975 when common people and ordinary soldiers of nearby cantonments joined hand to free Ziaur Rahman and install him in power to lead the nation.
The emergence of Ziaur Rahman to power, already well known for his brave role in the liberation war of 1971, caught the imagination of people, and more so, as he neither staged any coup or killed any political leader, nor did he dislodge any elected government. Further, he neither proclaimed the Martial Law, nor did he dissolve the Parliament to assume the authority to govern the country. He appeared before the nation as a clean person endowed with a great amount of charisma.
So unlike other military leaders, the rise of Ziaur Rahman in the national politics was unique by itself. In order to unite the people and rebuild the nation, he introduced a new political philosophy based on Bangladeshi nationalism to achieve a self-reliant economy for a modern Bangladesh. As opposed to one-party rule, he brought back the multi-party democratic system with all the fundamental rights, freedom of press, and independence of judiciary being guaranteed. Ziaur Rahman’s new approach to national development galvanised the entire nation. In terms of peace, social harmony and good governance, Bangladesh entered a golden period under a remarkable leader, who was loved and admired by the masses for his integrity and dedication.
But unfortunately, Zia did not survive for too long. As the most outstanding leader of all time, Zia laid slain with piercing bullets in his chest by sixteen men who came in a jeep and two pick-ups from the nearby cantonment. The killing was accomplished on 30th May 1981 in twenty minutes in a commando-style attack by a group of junior and mid-rank military officers at the Chittagong Circuit House where he was staying the night. His extraordinary popularity was marked by a historical funeral attended by more than one million people.
Zia ruled for about six years as an idol to his people. He was, in the traditional sense, incorruptible. He lived a frugal life. His personal habits and moral grounds were never in question. He had virtually no asset or property of his own and never tried to accumulate any. He lived a simple life and avoided any kind of luxury. He used 1300cc sedan ordinary cars for his travelling. He improved the relationship of Bangladesh with China and other Muslim countries, and was considered to be a nationalist opposed to the hegemony of India. Ziaur Rahman enjoyed enormous public credibility as an honest leader and ruled the country with the trust and confidence of his people.
I had the privilege of working with Ziaur Rahman very closely in amending the constitution to restore democracy and Islamic values, and steering the new philosophy to build a modern state to stand as a respectable nation in the world community. I helped him in formulating the constitution and manifesto of the BNP to carry forward his philosophy and political programmes. I have seen in him a true patriot with relentless energy and resilience dedicated to the cause of people.
Now I clearly see in Tarique Rahman a lot of qualities of his father. A polite and amiable, eager to hear and learn, pragmatic than emotional, a bright young man who is destined to lead the new generations of a povertystricken country where youths under his leadership will strive to bring the emancipation of people.
Tarique Rahman has emerged as a political leader on his own merit. Although as a son of Ziaur Rahman and Begum Khaleda Zia he enjoyed some natural advantages in the beginning, he reached the leadership position from the grassroots level through a democratic process for which he had to work very hard. Tarique had already proved his quality of leadership during the national elections held in 2001. He established a high-tech unit at the party office known as Hawa Bhaban, devoted to research on national politics and the party’s ground level position, election strategies and nomination procedures. With his office staffed by a young group of professionals trained in information technology, they had the entire country surveyed constituency by constituency and district by district, and their database was filled with information on the politics at the grassroots level. The young turkeys of the party from different levels provided the strength for Tarique to move forward and do all the political planning, which brought the BNP into power with a thunderous majority in the Parliament and made his charismatic mother the elected Prime Minister for the third term.
The BNP government of 2001-2006, led by Begum Khaleda Zia, made a great step forward towards progress in all major social sectors: education, healthcare, family welfare and child mortality. Having already attained a 6.7% annual growth rate in 2006, Bangladesh, under her leadership, achieved the distinction of being one of the rising tigers in Asia with the potential of a largescale economic leap-forward backed by huge foreign investment.
With nearly five years of endless corruption, intolerance, misrule and tyranny of the Awami League government and their failures in sustaining a peaceful democratic order, the expectations now run very high among all sections of people to see a real change in Bangladesh. I believe that once Tarique Rahman returns from abroad to take over the leadership of the BNP, he will have a dynamic team of clean, bright, educated and motivated individuals to work with him and take the country to the next level.
Tarique Rahman would be committed to democracy and tolerance to usher in a new political culture in the country and he will follow the personal values and the political philosophy left by his father. He will be ruthless in dealing with corruption, particularly at the high levels of the government. He will establish rule of law, build institutions placed above the individuals and strive to establish a strong and effective Parliament to ensure transparency of the government. He will show respect to the opposition, and abandon politics of reprisals and vengeance. Tarique Rahman is going to encourage bipartisanship in resolving national issues like water sharing, transit, maritime rights and security of the state. With all the potentials of cutting-edge technology and enterprising minds of millions of youths, under the leadership of Tarique Rahman, the people will certainly see much better days to come for an economically vibrant, democratically independent and politically sovereign Bangladesh.
Barrister Moudud Ahmed Member
Politician and Former Vice President of Bangladesh, Former Visiting Fellow, University of Oxford and Harvard University