A Statesmanlike Leadership

A Statesmanlike Leadership

Professor Abdul Latif Masum

Leadership is an individual as well as collective issue.  Leadership can be defined as a collective form of those desirable qualities of an individual that can inspire and motivate others for attaining the collective goals of a community. While defining leadership as a political concept, the eminent scholar CI Barnard says: “Leadership refers to the quality of behaviour of individuals whereby they guide people, a nation by their activities in an organised effort.”

Usually state leadership emerges from common leadership. Latent leadership is often spontaneously flourished and welcomed in a special environment or situation. While on the contrary, often a particular situation or environment may bring and establish some past event, individual or organised group into social and state leadership. SP Huntington, a great scholar of politics of the changing world, explained the matter in a different way in his book “Political Order in Changing Societies” through individual and collective contexts. He presented both the contexts in a psychological cover. The psychological standard reflects collective life sense flourished through coordination of the collective just as it incorporates beliefs and practices.

The individual issue is a unit while the collective issue is broad and wide. It is important in the judgment of leadership how an individual leader considers the issue and how he does his duty. On the other hand, success and failure of political leadership depends on two factors: success in building political culture, custom and institution, and statesmanlike far sight. In light of all these, in the critical situation of Bangladesh today, the need for a desirable future leadership is being seriously felt. The failure of present political leadership, its lack of quality and far sight, its corruption, partisan policy, and above all, the latest atrocities have thrown the whole nation on the verge of a civil war. Simultaneously, the need of statesmanlike leadership among the civil society is being felt strongly. People are talking about the future of their society, about their hopes and aspirations, their desirable statesmanlike political leadership, and in the same way, about Tarique Rahman.

The French Premier during the First World War, G Clemen Sue, said, “A statesman would sacrifice his life for his state while a politician would remain satisfied at best by giving service.” Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father, said: “A politician thinks for the next election. In any state system, leadership is a crucial issue.” In the western countries having structural stability, rule of law is well established there. In the societies where democracy has taken deep roots, institutionalisation guides leadership there. But in a developing country like ours where statecraft has not yet gained expected institutionalisation, where an individual often directs the state, especially where perverted individualism has been established and inferior type of partisan policy has become the carrier of individualism, the need for enlightened national leadership is most felt there.

Professor Abdul Latif Masum
Former Vice Chancellor, Patuakhali Science and Technology University

Tarique Rahman as the Saviour

Tarique Rahman as the Saviour

Professor Khandaker Mustahidur Rahman

Tarique Rahman is a leader of the future of Bangladesh in the 21st century. He has become pre-eminent in the politics of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) by proving repeatedly himself at different levels of the organisational hierarchy. Before being named the Senior Vice Chairman of the party in December 2009, BNP’s top leadership, including the Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, launched a number of positive schemes to groom Tarique to look after strategic party affairs and eventually take charge as its next generation leader.

Tarique Rahman joined politics formally in 1988 accepting the primary membership of the Gabtali Upazilla, Bogra BNP – the birth place of his father Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman. He became a member of the Bogra district BNP at a conference held in June 1993. Oftentimes openly and oftentimes behind the scene, he played a vital role in providing strategic solutions and solving crucial crisis for the party.

Tarique Rahman was the mastermind in devising the election campaign and the election strategy in the parliamentary elections held in 2001, in which the BNP won with more than two-third majority. Shortly after the party formed the government following this victory, the BNP Standing Committee, its highest decision making body, unanimously appointed him as the Joint Secretary General in June 2002. Assuming the new office, Tarique Rahman took reformative political programmes for the BNP with a view to making the party modern and suitable for the age. He implemented a programme titled as “Conference in the Grassroots Level” in every district, with a view to knowing the outlook of the grassroots leaders and activists about the party, to gain proper idea about the complaints and necessities of the common people, and to formulate party policies accordingly.

The conferences, principally based on Shaheed President Zaiur Rahman’s view to conduct national politics with particular focus on the rural areas, were held in six divisions separately with the grassroots level leaders (Union Council level). As a result, the top level leaders of the party became aware of the demands of the common people and these were reflected in the party’s activities. Under this programme, Tarique Rahman took part in hundreds of public meetings all throughout the country. Top level party leaders and senior politicians of respective regions participated in those meetings along with him. The series of meetings with grassroots activists promoted Tarique’s image as a party organiser rather than just the son of the party founder or the party chair.  It was amid his visit to the Gopalganj district as part of these grassroots conferences, when he made a formal visit at the grave of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Tongipara to pay homage to the departed soul on behalf of the BNP, despite the fact that the Awami League continuously speak ill of Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman. Though the Awami League has consistently criticised other family members of Tarqiue, his visit to the grave urged a change in the political malfunctioning of Bangladesh.

Such activities and approaches not only reflected Tarique Rahman’s political attitude, but also widely created a positive response and awakened a new era in the BNP. During the time, he stood beside the distressed and stretched out his helping hands towards them. As part of his commitment to social welfares, he established a nursing home for asthma patient, Komol (nickname of Ziaur Rahman) Seed Project, Komol Water Resources Project, Flood Control and Agricultural Rehabilitation Project, Shaheed Zia Children’s Hospital, Plastic Surgery Camp, and many other social welfare centres. He was involved with the party inextricably till the state of emergency was imposed in the country.

An unconstitutional government took over the power of Bangladesh on 11th January 2007, which began to run the country in the name of caretaker government, but pragmatically, in the behest of the army. The state of emergency was declared. It was being said anonymously that a civil war would have erupted if the scheduled 22nd January election were held, thus justifying the undemocratic takeover of power. The office bearers asserted that the state of emergency was imposed with a view to avoiding the civil war, stopping corruption and countering maladministration. They took their stand against the politicians in the name of stopping corruption. As the political events advanced with time, it was made clear by the observers speaking up in the media that the army backed takeover was pre-planned as part of a conspiracy dating back to 2005. The Awami League made a secret entente with the army officials to resist the BNP from coming to the state power and implemented the agenda through some foreign diplomats. The role of the assuring party of the agreement to implement that agenda had also become clear. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that the undemocratic government took the power by force with a view to destroying the BNP.

The undemocratic regime arrested some leaders and workers of the Awami League, including its President. But these arrests appeared to have been done as a show off. It seemed that the major plan was to destroy the organisational set-up of the BNP from the grassroots to the central levels by resorting to filing of cases, harassments, oppressions and repressions against its leaders and workers through systematic exploitation of national law and order forces.  They arrested all the top leaders and numerous workers of the BNP on false cases, including Begum Khaleda Zia, and threw them into jail. They ventilated their total anger against Tarique Rahman, the future leader of the BNP. They filed against him false cases of extortion, corruption and money laundering, and sent him to jail.

Tarique Rahman became subject to brutal physical and mental tortures after his arrest on 7th March 2007 in the name of remand. After some days, his health severely deteriorated and his spinal cord was fractured. A serious allegation of violation of human rights was raised against the caretaker government at that point. On 3rd September 2008, Tarique Rahman was released on bail, but stayed in the hospital where he was already recovering from the inhuman torture. Four days later, on 11th September, he left Dhaka towards London for medical treatment, directly from the hospital. On the eve of his departure from Dhaka, the representatives of a military intelligence agency forced him to sign on a statement at the airport, where it was said that he had taken retirement from active politics, including the post of Senior Joint Secretary General of the BNP.

Is it difficult to explain the main reason behind inflicting such torture on Tarique Rahman? It is not. Such an effort was made to weaken the BNP, led by Begum Khaleda Zia, at the conspiracy of the expansionist forces with a view to making the country dependent on others.

Now it is necessary to explain in brief about the politics of the BNP. Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman established the BNP upholding the ideology of the National Revolution and Solidarity Day of 7th November. Before 7th November, the country was free but not sovereign. There was no independent foreign policy. Everything was controlled at the hint of Delhi, India. After 7th November, the sovereignty of the country was established by becoming free from the clutches of the imperialist and expansionist forces. Ziaur Rahman established the BNP by taking independence, sovereignty and Bangladeshi nationalism as its fundamental principle, and expressed his confidence to build the country self-reliant through sustainably freeing it from poverty and illiteracy. It is noteworthy that Ziaur Rahman observed that there was no other option but to achieve self-reliance if we want to be known as a self-respected nation upholding our sovereignty.

For achieving self-sufficiency, President Ziaur Rahman focused on boosting production, especially in agriculture and agriculture based products of small industries. He also aimed to expand the industrial products and create new industries. He committed to ensure the balance of power and derived an independent foreign policy building on friendship and agreement with neighbouring countries on equal footing. He established friendly relations with the Islamic states, extended bilateral agreements with the East Asian countries including China and Myanmar, and fostered an excellent working relationship with the Western countries including the USA and the UK.

As soon as Ziaur Rahman started running Bangladesh as the President, thanks to his positive politics and revolutionary initiatives, the evil reputation of the country as a bottomless basket getting started disappearing. He started a green revolution by supplying seeds and irrigation instruments to the farmers at a nominal price. He began the nationwide canal digging programme through mass participation on a voluntary basis, with a view to ensuring the use of surface water and combat regular floods. In the agreement of Farakka Barrahe reached with India in 1977, he ensured the equitable share of water for Bangladesh and finalised the guideline for establishing a regional cooperation alliance among the South Asian countries.

By overthrowing the elected President of the BNP, as a dictator, Hussain Muhammad Ershad seized the state power within 10 months following the martyrdom of President Ziaur Rahman. In such a wretched condition of the BNP, upon communal demand of the party activists, Ziaur Rahman’s wife Begum Khaleda Zia took the leadership of the party. On the one side, she was reorganising the BNP and giving it a strong foundation to mitigate her husband’s absence, and on the other hand, she was conducting the movement against the dictatorial government and striving to re-establish democracy in the country. Begum Khaleda Zia performed both these responsibilities efficiently and was widely applauded as an uncompromising leader. Later on, her popularity brought her the honour of performing the responsibility as a Prime Minister three times, after taking her party to power in each of those national elections.

In continuation of the BNP politics intact, based on the foundation rooted in the 19-point of programme of President Ziau Rahman, Begum Khaleda Zia had implemented some epoch-making programmes. Some of her acclaimed programmes are trade liberalisation through structural changes, food and stipends for education, free education for girls up to the higher secondary level, reduction of poverty by implementing pro-people economic projects, and increase of the rate of national GDP. We can take some of the socio-economic metrics to assess the success of her governments. For instance, during the BNP period of 2001–2006, the rate of literacy, particularly among the girls, rose highly at that time. The poverty rate was 58.9 per cent in 2000; but it came down to 40 per cent in 2005. Population growth rate lowered down to 1.5 per cent. As a result of the development of child and maternal health condition, the rate of child and maternal mortality decreased notably. The average life span rose to about 67 years in 2005, which was 67 years in 2000. There are many similar examples.

Throughout the BNP period, Tarique Rahman, staying away from any government position and thereby from all policy making activities, under the direction of Begum Khaleda Zia, took the initiatives to reform the BNP with a view to making it more dynamic. He materialised several programmes of holding local level conferences of the party, with a view to incorporating the working class and the grassroots people into the mainstream politics. It was a significant step in changing the face of Bangladesh in the political arena.

I have mentioned about Bangladesh in the 21st century in the headline of this article. How would Bangladesh appear at that time? Who will make sure that good things happen to the country? If we pause for a while and visualise the incidents expected to be happened after 10 years, we will notice that the present context would be changed. Tarique Rahman will take all the initiatives that are required to rebuild the nation.


There will be a population of about 175 million, if the present rate of population growth continues. If the agricultural land decreases in an average rate of 1 per cent and the population growth increases in the present rate, it will be necessary to increase the annual agricultural production by 2.5 per cent for achieving self-sufficiency in food. It will be necessary to create wide employment opportunities through pro-people poverty alleviation programmes. It will be required to provide education to all. It will be imperative for health services to be reached to all by extending health facilities. Like the development in the agriculture sector, the industrialisation in the country is required to be developed rapidly, including the small industries for ensuring more employment opportunities.

At the same time, the port facilities would require to be increased, including the development of infrastructural facilities. The supply of electricity and energy would also have to be increased. Some unresolved issues should require to be solved with the neighbouring country, i.e., India, such as the border delimitation, reduction of wide trade deficit, sea boundary delimitation, and equitable water sharing of all rivers including the Ganges and the Teesta.  In restructuring Bangladesh’s diplomacy, friendly relationship should be developed with all the states through skilful diplomacy, development of economic cooperation among the regional countries should require to be strengthened, and the relations with the East Asian countries including China should be developed for maintaining the balance of power.

Moreover, the people will be more conscious about their rights as a result of expanding technology. A massive change will occur in the environment due to global warming and climate change. Due to the rise of the water level in the sea, the salinity in the coastal districts will increase, the cultivable land will decrease, and about 20 million people will become environmental refugees as a result of decrease in production. They will have to be rehabilitated.

To solve all the complex issues discussed above, it is required to have a welfare oriented political party and a farsighted capable leader who will lead the country forward by accommodating its people in its political and social activities. The BNP, by keeping its declared policy and ideology intact, has the credit of developing the country by adopting newer schemes suitable for the need of the time. In terms of leadership, a new political dimension is required for taking the country towards fast development in vast areas of improvement, especially in view of the 21st century Bangladesh. We are lucky that towards that direction, Tarique Rahman has already added a new dimension under the capable leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia. He is the only leader who can hold the country together and enable it to move forward as a respectable force in the global village of the 21st century.

Tarique Rahman is a severely tested man. His father, the decorated war hero Major Ziaur Rahman, was in the battlefield when Tarique was a child of only 5 years old. At that time, he saw how his mother Begum Khaleda Zia was passing the days with much anxiety and uncertainty. When he was 10 years old, he saw how his father President Ziaur Rahman filled the power vacuum followed by the revolution of 7th November. When he was a young boy of 16 years old, standing by the side of his mother, he became startled to see the bruised dead body of his father wrapped up in a coffin. He saw how his mother Begum Khaleda Zia had struggled for ensuring democracy, organised the party, and finally went to power overpowering all obstacles. It means that Tarique Rahman has taken lessons of politics every day in his way of life. He has seen its rise and fall, and its joy and cruelty. He has marked his farsightedness, merit and talent in the activities of the BNP. He has added a new height in the politics by including grassroots interaction, with a view to building the country for which he has always dreamt of.

A vision is required for a mentionable change in any social or political field. Throughout the history, such visions have been created by visionary politicians, philosophers, writers and intellectuals. Consistent with them, Tarique Rahman is a visionary politician in the case of Bangladesh. He has evolved ground-breaking programmes of incorporating the grassroots level people, both economically and socially, with a view to making the nationalist politics mass oriented. He has made successful efforts to take the nationalist politics closer to the people, much closer than any other party in Bangladesh has ever taken before. He has included the marginal people in wide-ranging political activities, and added a new facet in the anti expansionist politics pursued by his parents.  As a result, the conventional politicians, the vested interest groups, and the local friends of the expansionist forces, are desperate against Tarique.

In the present reality, amid the devastating ruling of the Awami League regime, the awareness of the common people and their commitment to the country can show us the way of freedom. As Tarique has done throughout his political career, there is no other alternative but to strengthen the trend of the patriotic nationalist forces by awakening the population staying in the grassroots level and empowering them to face the challenges of the 21st century. Time and again, Tarique Rahman is required to repeat his much appreciated political activities for the sake of the survival of his nation. He needs to resurrect the great works from where he had left five years ago. Then he will become our obvious saviour and create a Bangladesh thriving with social, political and economic success.

We have got such confidence in Tarique Rahman because he has marked his talent in the past, showed new dreams to his fellow countrymen, and accomplished many of those dreams in a short tenure. We have seen Tarique’s commitment and capability, and there is no one else in today’s Bangladesh who could match him. We hope that he will yet again lead the country towards development through his revolutionary political engagements. To this end, we believe that Tarique Rahman will infuse vitality in the nationalist politics and make Bangladesh a role model of equity and development for other developing countries of the 21st century.

Professor Khandaker Mustahidur Rahman
Former Vice-Chancellor, Jahangirnagar University

A Leader Subjected to Inhuman Tortures

A Leader Subjected to Inhuman Tortures

Professor Anwarullah Chowdhury

I consider myself privileged to form a soul-searching warm relationship with Tarique Rahman by seeing his great works from the proximity. Like many other Bangladeshis, I was first introduced to his developmental plans through various print and electronic media outlets. I was utterly impressed by his constructive political outlooks and passionate socio-economic programmes to bring about the changes that we need in Bangladesh. On top of the secondary media sources, I was fortunate to meet Tarique Rahman in person and converse with him face-to-face about academia, society, economics and development. Our discussions also revolved around the political situations and policy reformations of Bangladesh and the wider world. Again, I was utterly impressed by his in-depth knowledge, wide-ranging ideas, and deeprooted commitments about critical national and global issues of socio-political interest. It all assured me that Tarique Rahman is the man whom we should unanimously thrust the responsibility to take Bangladesh forward and he is the reformer who would create a self-reliant progressive Bangladesh, as was aspired by his father.

Tarique formally entered into the top circuit of politics about a decade ago as the Senior Joint Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). He then played a pivotal role in the advancement of the nationalist forces. I firmly believe that he is the best suited successor of the noble spirit and ideology of his father Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman and mother Deshnetri (Leader of the Country) Begum Khaleda Zia. He was born and brought up in a traditional political family. He got his first set of political lessons and socio-political initiations within the family, which in turn, encouraged him to get interested into politics in an early age. Tarique Rahman is well informed about the global political developments. He systematically prepared himself through the study of various national and international political issues, pertaining to both the major events and the key actors. He was eager to know about the contemporary society and the history of civilisation. He had considerable knowledge about the current stage of cutting-edge science and technology. Thereby, he used information technology in his political and organisational activities, which was imperative in building the BNP as a strong political institution.

Tarique identified the challenges for the BNP and planned its strategies and tactics to cope with the situation. In 1998, he established a research cell for the party and drew in the expertise of academics, professionals and entrepreneurs, along with the experiences and expertises of the politicians, to plan for the future of the party. He played an integral part in the national elections held in 2001 and masterminded the great success of the BNP. He was involved inextricably in that election process and the electoral success brought him closer to active politics. Evidences show that he has had absolute acceptability within the nationalist forces and beyond to the general people.  As it happens in any democratic party, Tarique was rewarded for his accomplishments and took up the position of the Senior Joint Secretary General of the BNP. He felt the urge to organise the party in an apt way through the involvement of the grassroots supporters. So he devoted himself to the organising of revolutionary activities with a view to building the party policies right from the bottom. I witnessed from a distance as to how he took politics to the hands of the local villagers and arranged conferences by ensuring the participation of their true representatives. In doing so, he came out of the conventional politics and set a new benchmark of constructive politics. Tarique’s efforts of arranging conferences in the local levels and giving preference to the opinions of the representatives in the policy formulation processes made him a luminous and radiant revolutionist in the political arena. Clearly, he was influenced by the pro-village politics pursued by his legendary father.

Tarique Rahman is a symbol of youth. His youthful dexterity is an inspiration to the innumerable youths of the country. He is the representative of those young people who have got involved or want to get involved with politics. The aim of his politics is national progress and advancement based on science and technology. It seems to me that Tarique is an able organiser and he

used his juvenile attributes masterfully in all organisational underpinnings. As an outsider of the party, I reckon he played a critical role in building the BNP as an expanded and powerful organisation. Tarique’s merit and organisational skills will be needed in the future to make the nationalist forces more united and powerful, and thereby improve the socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh.  Whenever I speak or write something about Tarique Rahman, the young patriotic nationalist’s pain-afflicted image appears in my mind in the first instance. Tarique was subjected to brutal physical and mental tortures during the period of the last caretaker government, as a result of which, the darkness of the dark night of the new moon still overcasts the life of this lively, rising, and promising politician. There was even a widespread apprehension that due to the infliction of cruel and inhuman sufferings at the time of his imprisonment, his life was at the risk of loss. As known by one and all, some of the bones of Tarique’s spinal cord were broken after the devilish tortures and he was facing the danger of becoming paralysed for the rest of his life. I sat firm in front of the television set to watch the video clips of him walking leaning on others’ shoulders or sitting on a wheelchair while going to the court. It was never easy to see such painful scenes of a patriot standing with much trouble and moving with the help of others. It made the general citizens of Bangladesh feel his pains and shed into tears, even more so when we comprehended the agenda-driven political reasons behind this cruelty. In line with others, I too prayed for his release from such disastrous condition and was relieved when he went abroad for medical treatment by getting a temporary release.

Tarique Rahman was arrested on the allegation of corruption. Many politicians and businessmen were arrested at that time on similar type of allegations. Most of them were subjected to more or less the similar type of tortures as well. Some of the horrifying tales of these tortures are much more severe than the barbarism of the middle ages. Among all, the case of Tarique was by far the worst and in many regards the magnitude is unimaginable in an independent country. We, the general people and average citizens of the country, are against all forms of corruptions. We want to establish a society free from corruptions. We want justice by punishing the corrupt individuals. There should have been no objection in connection with the punishment of the corrupt people. But how can one claim that almost all the top-tier politicians and businessmen of the country were corrupt?

There cannot be a policy in a civilized society or a state to arrest the leading political activists and businessmen en masse with the allegation of corruption. It is a shame that the then caretaker government was interested in collecting money from them by force; and that too, on top of torturing them so ruthlessly. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to any conscious citizen to call anyone corrupt and inflict punishment before proving his act of corruption. The case of Tarique Rahman is no exception. He had to suffer punishment before the trial, long before the proof of any guilt or wrongdoing. It is not only sad and tragic, but also stands against any civic law. All these unprecedented events of filing false cases and oppressing amid harassment made the civil society surprised and confounded.

Everyone has the right to take part in politics in an independent and sovereign country. Taking part in politics cannot be considered as a crime. The main aims of politics are to serve the people, to protect the interests of the people, to engage for the welfare of the people, and to sacrifice for the freedom of the people. Like all other aspects of life, there has to be the coexistence of success and failure in politics. Some might have more successes and some might have more failures. In the end of the day, it is the general people, who with their voting rights, determine the fate of politics and the politicians. Since ups and downs of politicians are very common phenomena in the political arena – it is totally unexpected and undesirable to call the politicians en masse as corrupt and inflicting them punishment before the proof of their guilt – which happened during the period of the caretaker government. Whenever we talk about sufferings of politicians in Bangladesh, the name that comes first to everyone’s mind is Tarique Rahman. Such was the enormity of tortures and propagandas against him that the then government left no stone untouched to systematically obscure his exceptional achievements and destroy his political career.

The road to politics is very slippery and uneven, as there are a lot of hurdles and difficulties. Tarique Rahman was able to achieve great success surpassing all the obstacles and he earned unstinted love and support of the people. The people placed him on the apex of their hearts as a reward for his love for Bangladesh. I feel that Tarique is now crossing an uneven path in his political career, primarily because of the unprecedented love and support that he received from the people. The expansionist forces consider him a hindrance in attaining their ill-motivated political objectives and that is why he has had to undergo so much pains and sufferings. Even today, whenever I think of Tarique’s torture back then, I feel distressed and frustrated. And after coming to power, the Awami League government dropped every single case filed

against its own politicians, but did not drop any of the cases filed against the BNP leaders, including Tarique Rahman. Instead, they filed more cases against the BNP leaders and built on the caretaker government’s work to humiliate the BNP in the public eyes. After spending five years in the government, the Awami League has completely failed to support any of the cases or prove any of the allegations. They tried their best to accumulate fabricated evidences, but the whole propaganda failed and made it clear to all Bangladeshis that Tarique is subjected to political vengeance.

The lessons from the history teach us that patriots never get ruined and perished for loving their countries and fighting for great causes. Instead, their names are written in the history in golden letters. In Asia, Africa, Latin America or even Europe, many patriotic nationalist politicians paid the highest prices for loving their countries and countrymen. But they achieved immortality in the history of their nations and lived forever in the hearts of their people. I have no doubt that the present phase of life of Tarique is sure to come to an end and follow the same route. The sympathy and support of the mass people have increased for him due to the mental and physical tortures that he had to suffer. He will again get the opportunity to dedicate himself in organising the nationalist patriotic forces with a view to freeing the people. He will dedicate his life in safeguarding the independence, sovereignty and democracy of the country, with the aim of ensuring freedom of the people.  The innumerable people of Bangladesh are also holding the same expectation and looking forward to seeing Tarique Rahman’s responsible developmental acts. The country and the people are waiting to see his dynamic and historical leadership in the future. To this end, I trust that the day is not far away when millions of Bangladeshis will congratulate Tarique like they did half a decade ago. I pray for Tarique’s safe return to Bangladesh where he would resume his political career without any partisan hindrance. I have the faith that he is the best person to lead the country and complete his father’s incomplete legendary works. I wish him all the very best of success with returning to Bangladesh, staying safe, and recommencing politics.

Professor Anwarullah Chowdhury
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka

The Endeared Leader of the People

The Endeared Leader of the People

Professor M Maniruzzaman Miah

It has been proclaimed in our constitution that all powers of the Republic  of Bangladesh belong to the people. Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman used to say that it is the people who are the source of power. As a successful President, he always felt that the people are the source of his inspiration. We have seen the materialisation of this principle in the state activities during his tenure while in power. Ignoring all sorts of protocols, President Ziaur Rahman used to go in the midst of the common people freely and without fear. The cheerful people also accepted him with sincere love. In his many programmes, including the canal digging scheme, the people’s participation was inevitable. But why was it so?

Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman was aware of what focus the politicians are meant to have. Their main work is to serve the people and to stand by their side at the time of their sorrows, happiness and adversities. He moved forward with all his strength for the welfare of the people and thereby he was able to become an unforgettable and undisputed leader in the politics of Bangladesh.

The driving force of the development of Bangladesh is primarily our agriculture sector and the farmers are the vital force of the country – a narrative which was effectively reflected in Shaheed Zia’s state policies. He remained active for taking multidimensional steps like providing water necessary for irrigation and preserving water necessary for drinking. In view of his sincere initiative, the common people participated voluntarily in the canal digging programme and made the country self-reliant.

We shall be able to save the country from national wastage if we can maintain the continuation of the history of Shaheed Zia’s voluntary effort. During his time, our agricultural production was increased to double. We should not be unmindful about these development projects. Due to the success of development in the agricultural sector, the amount of foreign assistance was reduced to half during the time of Shaheed Zia. It is necessary to have moral strength and honest courage for taking such national steps with a view to reducing foreign dependency. It is also necessary to have strong selfconfidence, which was totally present in the actions and activities of Shaheed Zia. As a successful leader of state, his dreams made him the spokesman of Asia. He became the favourite leader of the people across the third world countries.

We saw what the unconditional love of the people was, when the dead body of Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman was brought in Dhaka. As far as the eye-sights went, there was the cosmic concourse of people – everyone’s eye was bursting with tears with the grief of loss of their beloved one. Perhaps it is called the emotional expression of the vast multitude of people. Why was this vast multitude of people? Who called so many people to come over there? There was no one to call them and make the arrangement. The people came with the passion to honour their beloved President; they came with the motivation to have a last glimpse of a person as close as their family members. There was no intricacy in the attraction of this love; there was only pure love. Why did it happen? I believe the main reason is that Shaheed Zia reached the people of the grassroots level and loved them.

Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman is no more today. But the Bangladesh of which he dreamt of still remains in the world map. His dear people still remain in the country and beyond. It is not possible to erase an ideology by killing a person. Tarique Rahman, a worthy son of his father, moves forward upholding the flag of his Shaheed Zia’s ideology. He draws on the friendship and appreciation of the common people. He loves and looks after them. He makes them his partners in the development activities. He does things in such a spontaneous way that the people of the country think of him as a genuine friend and a close well-wisher.

As a deserving son, Tarique Rahman always keeps in mind that the inspiration for Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman to march forward was the love of the common people. With the unstinted love of the common people, Shaheed Zia dedicated himself totally to the country and to the people of the country. Without thinking of his own peace and happiness and future interest, he served the people selflessly throughout his life and for this reason the people of the country still remember him with deep love – with unending regard.  In the present day Bangladesh, Tarique Rahman is living up to our expectations and adeptly following the legacy of his father. We enjoy the reflection of Shaheed Zia in Tarique Rahman’s constructive actions of growth and development. That is why we have seen how he took numerous progressive initiatives during the last BNP period, which in turn, changed the visage of Bangladesh. No sphere of national life was unmarked in his policy programmes, and this gives us full faith that Tarique Rahman is the most appropriate person to lead the BNP and the nation. I believe that Tarique Rahman will go forward firmly in the way towards truth, justice and welfare with the strength of patriotism, upholding his father’s ideology and programmes of action.

Professor M Maniruzzaman Miah
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka

The Future Leader of Bangladesh

The Future Leader of Bangladesh

Shaukat Mahmood

There has been a rendezvous by the elite groups of Bangladesh so as to debate on the country’s politics centring one pivotal issue: With Tarique Rahman or without Tarique Rahman? In addressing this issue, let us all accept one truth: combating innumerable gossips spread against him, Tarique stands invincible as the future leader of the country. The vindictive and vilifying efforts of Sheikh Hasina’s government have failed to dishonour his distinct stature as the most popular politician of the age. The failed efforts to brand Tarique as the number one villain of the country, as well as the manner in which he has upheld himself in the midst of provocative and adverse atmosphere, have in fact endeared him more to the general people. In terms of the popularity scale of the contemporary politicians in the minds of the mass Bangladeshis, Tarique Rahman holds the second position only next to his mother Begum Khaleda Zia.

It is not that just because I have the privilege to write columns, I have written whatever I felt like and documented a eulogy on Tarique Rahman. In every drop of dust of Bangladesh, the truth is evident that the responsibility of running the country will be reposed on Tarique and he will phenomenally glide the country’s politics for a long time to come. At this point, there are only a handful of people who would ridicule this claim. It is not a fault on the part of the citizens to want to know about their politicians’ activities. Towards that end, raising some questions about the nature and dynamics of the political leadership is now a necessity and getting answers to those questions may also be possible.

The future leadership of a political party lies in the united consensus of its party leaders. In the absence of Tarique Rahman, in the ‘Coucil Session 2009’ of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the determined chanting of the slogan “Save the Country, Save the People” led to the election of Tarique Rahman as the Senior Vice Chairman of the BNP. The whole party wanted him as the leader not because he is the son of Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman and Former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia. Instead, he was elected because he is a tested, indispensible and rightful commander-inchief with an extraordinary track record.

According to the book titled as ‘Tarique Rahman: Opekkhay Bangladesh’ (Tarique Rahman: Bangladesh is Waiting), he was elected as a primary member of Bogra Zilla BNP in 1988. In the parliamentary elections of 1991, he was closely associated with the elections campaign. From 1997, he became actively involved at the BNP Chairperson’s Office in Banani. The pioneering role of the Research, Monitoring and Election Conducting Cell under the competent leadership of Tarique Rahman into the historical victory of the BNP in the 2001 elections is known to one and all. Had he wanted, Tarique could have joined the BNP-led government in any capacity he would have liked. Yet, he stayed out of the government to reorganise the party and to make it the true political entity that stands for the fulfilment of  the desires and demands of the general people. On 22nd June 2002, the BNP leaders unanimously appointed Tarique as the Senior Joint Secretary General of the party. As a young grassroots-venturing politician, he brought dynamism into the party politics by organising regular meetings with the representatives from various levels.

Tarique Rahman’s entrance and rise into politics cannot be compared with other subcontinental politicians who came as a result of hereditary politics. Unlike Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Asif Bilawal, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Khaleda Zia or Sheikh Hasina who took the helm in the existing vacuum at the request of the party, Tarique Rahman proceeded step-by-step and proved himself long before serving the people of Bangladesh. From his soul-burning urge to contribute to the country’s growth, Tarique was motivated by a mentality to sacrifice for the nation rather than to gain as a person. Although Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajib Wazed Joy has also taken the membership of the Awami League, he is yet to become active in party politics. He is probably not even interested in the first place. Contrasting to Tarique, he does not have the experience of getting embedded with the people and soil of Bangladesh. In the case of a vacuum, Sajib Wazed may take up the responsibility, but that too would come with little prior political engagement.  There is a widespread propaganda spread by a particular group over Tarique Rahman assuming a bigger role at a young age. However, we need to put this argument into perspective. When Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman became the President on 21st April 1977, he was 41 years and 3 months old. When he appeared on the centre-stage of power through the Sepoy-People revolution on 7th November 1975, he was a spirited youth aged 39 years and 10 months. Begum Khaleda Zia was 39 years old when she took over the responsibility of the Chairperson of the BNP. When Sheikh Hasina was made the President of Awami League, she was 34 years old. Rajiv Gandhi became the Indian Prime Minister at 40 years. So by no means is age a detrimental factor for Tarique Rahman. I would like to insist that on top of his direct political engagement from the early 1990s, Tarique Rahman had the opportunity to watch critical national events from a great proximity. Having heard the announcement of independence in his father’s voice, seen the liberation war and its victory, felt the revolution of 7th November, watched Shaheed Zia and Begum Zia’s democratic journey in strengthening the development of Bangladesh, viewed the odious military rule and Awami misrule – on several many measures – Tarique has got enough firsthand experience to assume a bigger role than he has taken up till date.

One question that often arises in the political conversations about Bangladesh is: Which politician has been physically tortured the most in a false case? The name that can be pronounced in one breath is Tarique Rahman. Tarique was the main target of the so-called 1/11 government of 2007. During that period, children were growing up amidst the propaganda that he is the villain of democracy and governance. Tarique’s office of that time, known as the Hawa Bhaban, was shown as the root of all irregularities. Just like the Hindi movies, storied of venom and hatred were made about him all across the country by systematically spreading as to how he was disgraced and belittled in the eyes of the people.

At that darkest moment of the annihilation of democracy, vindictive and motivated propaganda against Tarique Rahman became a part of some people’s regular activities. On 7th March 2007, without any complaint, Tarique was arrested from his house. The illegal caretaker government of 1/11, led by Fakruddin Ahmed and Moeen Uddin Ahmed, filed 13 cases against Tarique. Tarique was directly accused in none of those 13 cases, as he did not hold any post in the government, nor was there any document bearing his signature in any of the claimed misdeeds. Making the alleged accused admit their guilt through beatings was the weapon for implicating Tarique in those cases. The High Court passed stay order against 11 of the 13 cases. A case was filed with the Kafrul Police Station on 17th April 2007 under summary trial law. Desperate to implicate Tarique in the case, the government amended the law twice within a gap of only two days. But the High Court did not take it into consideration. Of the remaining two cases, one case, known as ‘The Dinkal’, was dismissed. Another case pertaining to ‘Zia Orphanage Trust’ is still under trial. Tarique was later implicated in a money laundering case. An attempt is still on to implicate him in the ‘21st August’ case. But he is not the main accused in these cases either.

Tarique’s internment of 554 days at that time is a fearful history of human rights violation. Have we ever witnessed a politician adorned in the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) outfit and helmet to be produced before the court? Many politicians have served their times in the jail. But no one has been made to undergo such inhuman physical torture. Neither any head of a state nor any head of a government had any continuous internment in the dark cell of the jail, and none was forced to suffer from blindness like this. As a victim of barbarous acts in the interrogation cell, Tarique gradually moved from ailment towards death. Nowhere in the world is there a similar example of attacking a prominent politican like a hyena, and that too, in the name of so-called remand. In an interview given to me while I was in London, Tarique shared his bleeding past: “While I was in remand, together with electric shock, they physically tortured me in many ways. Among these, one was dropping me repeatedly from a great height. I agonised in great pain. But those officers did not have any mercy. Their assignment was to gradually kill me through torture. Back in the jail, no doctor ever came to me or no treatment was ever offered to me. I passed every single day in hellish pain. The pain of broken bones of my waist is so intolerable that I cannot express it in words. It is just too unbearable.”

In January 2008, Tarique sought his life’s security before the court. He said: “In the name of questioning, they took me on remand blindfolded. They tortured me for 18 hours out of the 24 hours of a day. I am a politician, not a terrorist.” On 29th January 2008, he was admitted to a local hospital. On 9th June 2008, although he was taken to the court in an ambulance, he was even unable to stay sitting in his wheel chair on the dock. After getting bail in 12 cases, he was finally set released on 3rd September 2008. Tarique broke down in tears in the arms of his mother Begum Khaleda Zia at the PG Hospital. The painful tears of the mother and the son, along with their exchange of words in chocked voices, made the air of the hospital heavy. On 11th September, Tarique left for London in the pursuit of treatment. Nearly five years have passed since then. He is now much better than before. However, he still limps when he walks and he will never be fully cured again. Tarique’s mental strength remains immensely high though. In his simple soulful manner, he said: “I want to forget my bitter past and move forward. I will return to my country one day. Insha’Allah, I will make my dreams surrounding Bangladesh come to the reality.”

Are false cases and physical tortures the only punishments for Tarique Rahman? The answer is no. He had become the victim of an unprecedented hatred in the media outlets. A group of journalists and some members of the elite society – not to speak of the Awami Leaguers – had disseminated all reports and information concocted and distributed by the Director General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI). Stories of corruption and false confessional statements were published in abundance. Those red headlines had hurt the democracy itself. The propaganda was planned in all parts. One may wonder: Has it stopped now? Again, the answer is no. The present government, after coming to the power, has sustained the propaganda by installing more hatred against Tarique, undertaking measures to make him an unpopular figure, sending Ministers to bring him back from the UK, carrying out international lobbying, making use of foreign detective agencies, publishing various types of misleading documents, and undertaking many other similar conspiracies. But nothing has worked in the government’s favour. Tarique has stayed abroad in silence and loneliness by keeping his sufferings locked in his own soul. He has kept himself in exile, carefully allowing his wings of pleasure by staying aloof politically. By accepting the dreadful past and dissuasive present, he is building himself up for the future. In his life, Tarique Rahman has never violated anybody’s rights, never arrested any journalist for writing against him, never locked up any media office, and never did anything beyond the political norms. Still, he had to go through such pain for no reason.

Tarique has upheld the long-lasting tradition of ‘newspaper friendly and open to criticism’ Zia family. In fact, the birth of many media houses took place under his patronage, including his own declaration of the newspaper ‘Shamokal’. But today, when unholy means are underway to declare Tarique Rahman as the enemy of the state, some of the very media houses are keeping mum. There are even believers of nationalism belonging to the high society, who hesitate to speak in his favour. We all claim that we believe in the rule of law. Unfortunately but factually, in the present day Bangladesh, the term ‘rule of law’ means that hundreds of criminals can go free through the loopholes of the law, while innocent patriots like Tarique Rahman could undergo the severest of sufferings. It is crystal clear that what has been done with Tarique Rahman is a disgrace to the rule of law and it sets up the worst example of a derailed political culture. At this juncture, revitalisation of the rule of law should mean a safe return of Tarique Rahman to Bangladesh, as well as the formation of a case-free atmosphere which would allow him to resume his political career and revive the country.

The extent to which fabricated stories are constructed and dreadful gossips are carried out about Tarique Rahman has been unparalleled in the history of Bangladesh. No other politician has been the victim of the creation of a similar situation during his lifetime. Religious scholars (Alems), in the explanation of the Holy Quran’s Sura Asr, explicit that: “If someone spreads gossip that is a lie against anyone, Allah does not forgive the person for committing this sin. Only the victim of such rumour has the right to forgive. Gossip is such a grave sin that the person who speaks ill against anyone, all his good-deeds from his records are transferred into the records of the victim.” According to the Holy Quran, Tarique Rahman is indeed a lucky person from this viewpoint.

The most important question that needs to be asked is: Have we come to know the announced dreams of any politician who is going to assume the future leadership of Bangladesh? Without any doubt, we can say that we have come to know about such dreams from Tarique Rahman. He has the dreams to make Bangladesh a self-sustaining nation with its own resources by awakening the people and the land, to make Bangladesh stand on its own feet as a modern and powerful state, to take politics forward by keeping the marginalised people in the front, and to make democracy’s soul vibrant and dynamic. He has several many progressive dreams like the above, all of which would change the face of the country. Importantly enough, all these dreams are complemented by his announced action plans. One may rightly observe that they are the timely expansion of Ziaur Rahman’s dreams. The outcome of the soulful tie that the Zia family possesses with Bangladesh’s independence and sovereignty, as well as its bold and independent journey, has encompassed Tarique Rahman as the perfect descendent of the family. In a roundtable meeting organised in 2005, he had articulated: “I believe that in 2025 Bangladesh will become a self-sufficient, economically successful, developed and democratic country that will be respected by others, looked at by the whole world with undue respect. This is the dream of mine, as well as that of the young generation of Bangladesh.”

Tarique initiated much interest in the development of the agricultural and industrial sectors of Bangladesh, together with the arrangement of modern education system and rapid technological advancement. He also envisioned programmes for providing good seeds to the farmers, poultry farming to the poor, and many other similar activities. He conducted large-scale surveys to know the exact amounts of fishes, fruits, and paddies produced in the villages across the country. Even turning the shoals that arise in oceans and rivers – into precious gold with high selling values – was not beyond his imagination and reach. By doing and thinking so much for the general people of the country, Tarique had slowly but steadily become the undisputed future leader of Bangladesh. It is now widely believed that in large parts our prosperity depends on him and he would lead the country in coming days.

Tarique Rahman himself never said that he has not committed any mistake in the past. As it goes with all human beings, if we do something good and great, there will always be minor mistakes. In Tarique’s case, the volume of propaganda was never commensurate with the quantity of mistakes committed by him. Mountain has been made out of a mole hill just to suppress this great leader. As derived in Tarique’s own self-reflection: “It was not always possible for me to guard against what somebody was trying to gain by using me. It may be that some had committed excesses. But whenever something came to my knowledge, I took measures.” In line with Tarique’s words, the famous American political clairvoyant George Friedman mentioned about the mistakes of the politicians in the preface of his revolutionary book ‘The Next 100 Years’: “It is the delight of all societies to belittle their political leaders and leaders surely do make mistakes. But the mistakes they make, when carefully examined, are rarely stupid. More likely mistakes are forced on them by circumstances. Politicians are rarely free actors.”

In conclusion, I extend my greetings to the focal leader of the country Tarique Rahman. The days of taking him into custody and putting him on the dock are over. All the misappropriation of the Awami League government’s power to defame Tarique has been exhausted. Not only that, all the misgivings about him within the nation and beyond in the international arena have also been ended. The million dollar question in today’s Bangladesh is: When will Tarique Rahman return? The citizens of Bangladesh are eagerly awaiting his heroic return to the country. He is the future of Bangladesh and we all are looking up to him with the belief that Tarique Rahman will build on his father’s sanctified work and make our nation a dreamland of national development.

Shaukat Mahmood
Journalist and Columnist;
Editor, Economic Times

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