It is Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman, popularly known as President Zia, who made politics in Bangladesh people oriented. He brought politics from the drawing room to the thatched house of the farmers, to the sides of open fields and lands, and to the banks of rivers and canals. He taught the so-called politicians that politics is not an issue to discuss in the superior aristocratic drawing rooms, rather, it is an activity to mix up with the common people and work with them hand-in-hand for the development of the country. That is why President Zia once said, “I will make politics difficult for politicians.”
When President Zia was driving the nation towards the path of development with his own philosophy, the internal and external conspirators, those who did not want a developed Bangladesh, became reactive and brutally assassinated him in 1981. Everybody knows the history what happened in Bangladesh after the death of President Zia. General Hussain Muhammad Ershad, a crony of foreign conspirators, took over the power and established his autocratic regime for more than nine years. It was Begum Khaleda Zia, the widow of Zia, who challenged Ershad’s unconstitutional government and finally became successful to topple down his regime through a mass movement. In the national parliamentary elections of Bangladesh in 1991, Begum Khaleda Zia, a simple housewife, was elated to see the great victory in her hand. She started the implementation of the unfinished tasks of President Zia. The elections of 1991 were a turning point for Bangladesh. That was the auspicious moment when the 24-year old young man, the worthy successor of Zia family, Tarique Rahman, was brought to the pitch of politics by his mother. In an interview with ‘Channel-i’ television, Tarique revealed that it was a demand of the time and the people for which he had to associate himself with active politics.
In the elections of 1991, Begum Khaleda Zia contested from five constituencies. She had to look after other constituencies as well, and strategise the elections throughout the country. So she could not find enough time to campaign in her own constituencies. In this situation, Tarique Rahman had to come forward to work for his mother in all the five constituencies. The able son of an able mother proved his worth, and Begum Zia won in all the constituencies with massive margin of votes. After that, Tarique Rahman did never take a break. He started his career as a politician at the invitation of common public.
In 1993, Tarique became a grassroots member of the Gabtoli upozilla BNP and formally entered into politics. After some time, he became the member of the BNP unit of the Bogra district. Like his father, he mixed up with the grassroots level common people with a new style of pursuing politics. As the days passed by, Bangladeshis realised that Bangladesh has got back another Zia in the persona of his son. Tarique Rahman, just like his father, had been relentlessly working for the development of the country. The overwhelming victory of the BNP in 2001 general elections was the result of strategic planning and effort of Tarique Rahman. He was the sole engineer because of whom the BNP got a two-third majority in the parliament. As a result of Tarique’s glowing success, the Standing Committee of the BNP made him the Senior Joint Secretary General of the party.
Following the consolidation of the new position, Tarique started applying his own philosophy towards changing the fate of millions of helpless people of Bangladesh. For the first time in the history of the BNP, he arranged ‘Grassroots Level Conference’ in each district town, ‘Upazila Conference’ in each Upazila, and ‘Divisional Conference’ in each administrative divisional headquarters. By doing so, Tarique’s ultimate aim was to locate and nurture right, dedicated and committed leadership at the grassroots level. His realisation was that not by the parasites, but by tested, motivated and passionate leadership imbued with the feeling of nationalism, development of Bangladesh is possible.
Akin to his father, Tarique Rahman also moved from one village to another and one corner to another of the country like the comet sprawling in the universe. He did not move with the political agenda in mind only, as he mainly tried to connect the common people with the mainstream of the economic development. He himself joined in excavating canals for preserving water and irrigation, distributed poultry, livestock and high yield variety seeds to the impoverish farmers, and extended financial assistance to the poor meritorious students. Tarique was so introvert and press sensitive that many of the students who received his financial support could never know who actually financed their education.
Tarique Rahman followed his parents’ and political mentors’ footsteps in taking a positive approach toward other political parties and figures. In 1979, when President Ziaur Rahman delivered his speech in the second parliamentary session, he showed respect by citing the names of all the major politicians of the history of Bangladesh: Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq, Hossain Shaheed Shohrawardy, Mawlana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, and Sheikh Mujibu Rahman. Zia’s wife, Begum Khaleda Zia, maintained the legacy and visited the shrine of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Tungipara, Gopalgonj when she was the Prime Minister. In 2005, Tarique Rahman went to Gopalgonj for attending a party meeting there. He along with his entourage, on their journey back to Dhaka, suddenly changed the course and directly visited Tungipara, where the shrine of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is situated. To the utter surprise of the entourage members, he went to the shrine and prayed to Allah for Mujib’s departed soul. This is a simple example as to how Tarique has always respected people and extended them honour, even if they belong to the opposite spectrum of political affiliation.
It is untoward, but when we take into account what happened on the contrary, we find an exasperating picture of political malpractices. We have seen that when Sheikh Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasian came to power as the Prime Minister, she removed the floating bridge named after President Ziaur Rahman on the Crescent Lake of Dhaka, and sent it to the remote area of Sylhet so that people cannot access Ziaur Rahman’s shrine.
Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh are the symbols of progress and development in the south and south-east Asian region. Tarique Rahman has been building himself up in line with the philosophy of these great statesmen. During his party’s tenure in the government, he engaged himself all the time thinking about the model of development that would change the face of Bangladesh. Once he pointed out that Malaysia can be the model of Bangladesh. He visited Malaysia several times and tried to learn the process of development there. He
revealed that the two countries are very similar in many dimensions, including religion, culture and society, and hence Malaysia could be a role model for us. We all believe that Tarique Rahman was on the right track in developing Bangladesh. But unfortunately, everything suddenly became chaotic. The enemies of Bangladesh started hatching conspiracy against the BNP who won a landslide victory in the general elections of 2001. Tarique Rahman was the main architect who worked from behind and fetched the huge victory. The conspirators became alert at the looming capability of Tarique. To them, Martyred Zia was unwanted and unwelcomed as he put the country on the right track of development and gave it a nationalist identity. So they brutally killed Zia in 1981 and stopped the wheel of development of Bangladesh.
The way how the anti-Bangladesh groups, haunted by Zia’s growingly popular and pro-people politics, took charge by assassinating him, was witnessed once again in January 2007 when an extra-constitutional government backed by the army took charge in the guise of a caretaker government. It arrested Begum Khaleda Zia and kept her house-interned. On 7th March 2007, the so-called caretaker government arrested Tarique Rahman without any case or any sort of allegation. Putting him in remand, this junta brutally and inhumanly tortured him. The civilised people were stunned by hearing the brutality imposed on the son of the country’s most successful President and three-time elected Prime Minister.
Under the veil of the caretaker government, the conspirators had only one agenda and that was to finish the charismatic leader Tarique Rahman. The conspirators came with a long-term plan. As part of that plan, they successfully set up the Awami League to take over the control of Bangladesh. Consequently, in the general elections of 2008, the betrayers of the country came to power amid sheer conspiracy. To keep their companion in power, the conspirators started killing the valiant sons of the nationalist forces. Arrest, remand, abduction and forced-disappearance became common phenomenon. Today, these conspirators are looting the country and accumulating wealth in foreign countries. They have given up the sovereignty of our motherland to the foreign masters. The whole country is at a halt. The people are trying to create resistance against these looters, but the movements are being crushed in the bud by their subservient bootlicking police force. The government has put almost all the main leaders of the BNP into the jail. They have cut the constitution into pieces to pave their way to clinging into power.
However, the question is: How long will the unholy group of people continue to capture the power? Evidences from the past and results from the research done assure us that one day they will surely be thrown into the bin of the history. This time, in this ongoing war, as it happened when Ziaur Rahman called upon the people to start the liberation war to free our motherland, the people of Bangladesh will again jump over at the clarion call of Tarique Rahman, who symbolises youthfulness, honesty, success and sovereignty of the country. The victory is inevitable, so let us all wait for that victory to come. Let us all wait for the safe return of Tarique to Bangladesh. Let us all wait to see Tarique get into politics again with a sound health. Let us all wish Tarique the very best of success with all his personal, social and political endeavours.
Professor Syed Rashidul Hasan Professor
Former Vice-Chancellor, National University of Bangladesh.