BANGLADESH’S HIDDEN STORY: A BOOMING ECONOMY

BANGLADESH’S HIDDEN STORY: A BOOMING ECONOMY

640px-garden_city_building_sylhetSAJEEB WAZED

A significant piece of news emerged from Bangladesh recently that received little notice outside the country. Last year for the first time, foreign direct investment from other countries into Bangladesh surpassed $2 billion, a 44 percent increase from the year before.

In other words, investors increasingly see Bangladesh as a smart place to put their money. And they aren’t alone.

fastest-growing_economies_focuseconomics_2016According to a March poll by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 83 percent of Bangladeshis surveyed said the security situation in Bangladesh is very good or somewhat good and 77 percent believe the country is politically stable. In addition, 72 percent are optimistic that their personal economic situation will improve.

Top sectors for direct investment last year in Bangladesh included the ready-made garment industry, of course. But investors also poured money into oil and gas, banking, telecommunication and power generation. One reason is, unlike many of its neighbors, Bangladesh has a liberal investment regime that allows 100 percent foreign investment in many sectors and an unrestricted exit policy.

Stacking Intermodal container in Port of Chittagong

Stacking Intermodal container in Port of Chittagong

In recent years, Bangladesh’s economy has grown at a consistent, blistering rate of more than 6 percent, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Over the past nine months, that pace accelerated to 7 percent. Today, the Bangladeshi economy stands at about $180 billion. According to the World Bank, that will rise to $322 billion by 2021, creating many more scalable investment opportunities.

Growth is driven by the already-well-known ready-made garment industry. But it’s a more dynamic industry than most people know. In fact, it’s a mistake to continue to think of Bangladesh as t-shirt maker to the world. Bangladesh garment manufacturers produce high-end clothing that sells in Europe’s best boutiques.

textileThe garment industry has fostered more than pure economic gains. Demography has also been a winner. Garment factories have become the great gender leveler in society.  Most employees and managers are women, which has led to their economic empowerment and rise in stature in society.

At the same time, the Bangladesh garment industry is developing an international reputation for being smart and nimble. “Bangladesh offers ease of doing business, importing-exporting is faster. R&D on new styles is faster as you can import fabrics in three days. In India, it would take 10 days,” Vijay Mathur, an official with the Indian Apparel Export Promotion Council, recently told the Business Standard.

As a result, Bangladesh garment exports are likely to hit $27 billion this year, up 10 percent from 2015.

womeninbangladesh_petercantonoxfamau_800x533-648x431The economic success story of Bangladesh has also improved the health of its citizens.

Twenty-five years ago the average Bangladeshi could hope to live only to age 56. Today, that figure is over 70, which is among the most notable improvements in modern history, according to the Asia Foundation. In fact, expected longevity in Bangladesh is more than four years longer than in neighboring India and Pakistan.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of poor in Bangladesh dropped 26 percent from 63 million to 47 million. Today, the overall rate of poverty in the country is 22 percent, down from 40 percent a decade ago.

Millennium Development Goal 5   UNDP in BangladeshThe World Bank reports that labor income has risen while birth rates have dropped, leading to lower dependency ratios and higher per capita income. The World Bank recently ranked Bangladesh as a lower middle-income nation for the first time.

1628129236_1deee556d2_zThe economic surge started after the Awami League, the nation’s ruling party, won in a 2008 landslide. The impressive growth has been nurtured and sustained by smart government programs, savvy foreign investment and the entrepreneurial spirit of Bangladeshis, especially its young people who are increasingly English speaking and digitally savvy.

The bottom line is that Bangladesh is a legitimate – if underreported – economic success story, and one that is only in its beginning.

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Sajeeb Wazed is the chief information technology adviser to the government of Bangladesh and the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
MAY 02, 2016

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BANGLADESH’S GROWTH STORY IMPRESSIVE

BANGLADESH’S GROWTH STORY IMPRESSIVE

cskjinsuaaamy2cMD FAZLUR RAHMAN

In conversation with The Daily Star, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters speaks on both local and global economies

The brutal militant attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery that killed 17 foreign citizens suddenly made Bangladesh a scary place to do business.

The July 1 attack had stoked doubts whether foreigners would keep visiting Bangladesh or working in the country.

Despite a feeling of unease in the air, top officials of foreign companies continued coming to Bangladesh, thanks to stern responses by the government following the attack — to tackle the rise of militancy.

One of those officials is Bill Winters, a star banker and group chief executive of Standard Chartered, who came to Bangladesh on Tuesday on a two-day visit delivering a positive signal to the local market.

“I am happy to see a serious response from the government. I know there is no easy fix to this. It is a global phenomenon,” Winters told The Daily Star in an interview.

“It is a concern in Bangladesh as it is in many of our other markets.”

“The human cost is enormous. Its economic cost is huge,” he said.

downloadWinters said he is sure there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the most calamitous effect on local or global economy.

Winters joined the London-based but Asia and Africa-focused bank in June last year as its new chief executive.

He said he is familiar with Bangladesh and impressed by the progress the country has made in the past several decades, especially in the past several years.

Standard Chartered Bangladesh has become a strong local bank, promoting trade, investment and exports and bringing in capital to the country, he said.

The American banker, who spent 26 years with JPMorgan in diverse leadership roles, said South Asia is a bit of an oasis as it is largely free from geopolitical tensions.

South Asian economies have remained strong partly due to good policies and the import of commodities whose prices are falling, he said.

Banner_economic_success“Our Bangladesh business remains very strong. No complaints… I know that our team is focused on ways to do better, and we are doing better on the back of the investments we are making.”

In South Asia, the bank’s position is strong in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal while there are challenges in India.

“But our programme remains the same: to invest in technology and people so that we can become a best-in-class service provider and gradually redeploy our capital to higher returning areas from lower returning areas.”

He said, like in India, the bank has repositioned itself quite well in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. He praised Africa, saying the continent offers a fabulous position for the bank.

He said Bangladesh Bank is very professional when it comes to supervision. “As an organisation, they are quite professional. I don’t think there is a supervision deficit in the country,” he said, adding that there is always room for improvement.

When asked about the health of state-run banks in Bangladesh, he said he has seen in a number of markets around the world that when “you have reasonably high level of government interference in a bank, accidents tend to happen.”

RMG-is-the-Basic-rote-of-economical-standardization-for-Bangladesh-economyHe said, during the financial crisis the US government’s interference came in the form of massive subsidies to the US housing market.

“As a result of the subsidies the housing market created the biggest bubble in the financial history, probably. It caused an extraordinary amount of pain everywhere in the world,” he said.

“I am a very strong advocate of governments staying out of markets because when they are getting into markets bad things tend to happen.”

After taking the helm of the British bank, Winters laid out an aggressive strategy to ensure that the bank is financially strong, raised enough capital from shareholders to dispel capital risks and began the process of cleaning up the balance sheet.

He said, in the last one year the bank made great progress and returned to profitability in the first half of 2016. “Our income is growing albeit slowly. Our expenses and risks are under control, and the investments are beginning to bear fruit. We have quite a bright future.

“We are concentrating on getting it right. We don’t have to look further than Bangladesh where we have a strong market with high customer satisfaction.”

He, however, said the bank takes risks and operates in markets that are risky themselves. “I expect to have some higher than normal level of non-performing loans for a bit longer. But it is under control.”

slow-economic-growthBut he said the bank has to be more efficient. Winters has set a target to slash expenses by $3 billion by 2018, and the bank is halfway done and most of that came from trimming the management ranks.

“The flip side of saving the $3 billion is that the bank is investing every penny of the savings back into its business. Half of the investment will go into technology to be the best-in-class digital bank.”

Winters said the bank is already the best in mobile banking and online banking. “We need to automate not just the frontline but also our entire process.”

Winters said the bank is investing in new capabilities and Bangladesh is already a recipient of significant amount of the new investments.

“We are hoping to add branches and corporate client base. We are making investment in technology here. We would like to ensure that we remain at the leading edge of digital banking in Bangladesh.”

Winters said the bank has very strong business in Bangladesh and high customer satisfaction in a growing population. “We are very happy to be part of that.”

Bangladesh is, in some ways, a role model for Standard Chartered, he said. “The country is a core market.”

export-import-growth1Ajay Kanwal, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered for Asean and South Asia region, who was also present during the interview, said it is fair to see that Bangladesh will be among the bank’s top ten markets. “It continues to be a strong investment destination for us.”

Apart from catering for local economy and businesses, the bank is successfully bringing in international businesses, capital and investors to Bangladesh. Half of the capital coming to Bangladesh is coming through Standard Chartered, according to Winters. “We are a big promoter of capital coming into the country and a big promoter of exports going out of the country.”

He said China plans to shift its excess manufacturing capacity and capital to other countries such as Bangladesh.

When the Chinese are looking to finance infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, Pakistan, the UAE, Nigeria or Kenya, the natural partner for them is Standard Chartered because it has a big operation in the world’s second-largest economy and also operates in the countries where China wants to invest in.

“We are a very natural arranger of those sorts of financing. That’s exactly what we are doing.”

Winters said as the remotest part of the population is getting access to digital economy through mobile phones, there is opportunity for the bank to bring in a much larger portion of the unbanked population under the banking operation.

He also thinks that it is not a big issue for Bangladesh that local firms are borrowing from external sources to benefit from low-cost funds.

Abrar A Anwar, CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, said the country’s total debt is 15 percent of its gross domestic product.

“It is very low. Sometimes we wonder whether it is detrimental to our own growth as we have been so conservative and don’t borrow to grow.”

Of the $8 billion that entered Bangladesh’s private sector as loans from international sources, $3.5 billion has been raised by Standard Chartered for power projects, aviation and export-oriented industries.

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SEPTEMBER 08, 2016

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THESE ARE THE ’10 EMERGING MARKETS OF THE FUTURE’

THESE ARE THE ’10 EMERGING MARKETS OF THE FUTURE’

151230104643-emerging-markets-custom-780x439CHLOE PFEIFFER

A new report from BMI Research has identified the “10 emerging markets of the future” — the countries that are set to become new drivers of economic growth over the next 10 years.

BMI estimates that these countries will cumulatively add $4.3 trillion to global GDP by 2025 — roughly the equivalent of Japan’s current economy.

In general, manufacturing and construction are the sectors that will drive the economies. BMI reports that new manufacturing hubs are set to emerge in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Pakistan, and that these countries will see particularly strong growth in exporting manufacturing industries. And construction growth is going to be widespread throughout all the countries — partly to facilitate increases in urban populations and partly to help develop the manufacturing sector.

On the other hand, extractive industries — like mining, oil, and gas — are going to play a far smaller role in driving growth than they have the past 15 years.

While it might provide bright spots for some countries, the report states, “the ubiquitous commodity-driven growth model that was derailed by the 2012-2015 collapse in commodity prices is not coming back.”

Here are the 10 new emerging markets and the sectors that drive their growth:

BANGLADESH

bangladesh-flagPrimary sector: Agribusiness

Key exports: Garments, agricultural products

2015 GDP growth: 6.4%

Unemployment rate: 4.9%

Exchange rate: 77.42 Bangladeshi taka per US dollar

“Bangladesh’s export-oriented industrial sector already accounts for more than a quarter of GDP and will continue to develop as a global manufacturing hub in the coming years.”

EGYPT

egypt-flag
Primary sector: Natural gas

Key exports: Oil, fruits and vegetables, cotton

2015 GDP growth: 4.2%

Unemployment rate: 12.8%

Exchange rate: 7.72 Egyptian pounds per dollar

“We expect continued investment across the housing sector in Egypt, given the almost 1 million additional urban residents per year that we forecast over the next 10 years. There will be some investment in Egypt’s large manufacturing export base in a continuation of recent investment in the autos and food sectors.”

ETHIOPIA

ethiopian-flagPrimary sector: Agribusiness

Key exports: Coffee, oilseeds, vegetables, gold

2015 GDP growth: 10.2%

Unemployment rate: 16.8%

Exchange rate: 21.55 Ethiopian birr per dollar

“Construction to meet rapid urbanisation and ambitious state infrastructure targets will be the main driver of economic growth in Ethiopia … Ethiopia’s construction industry will record the highest growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, averaging real annual growth of 10.7% between 2016 and 2025.”

INDONESIA

indonesiaPrimary sector: Agribusiness

Key exports: Mineral fuels, machinery parts

2015 GDP growth: 4.8%

Unemployment rate: 5.5%

Exchange rate: 13,577.6 Indonesian rupiah per dollar

“Growth in Indonesia will be far less commodities-centric than over the past decade, as the mining and oil and gas sectors will stagnate … The government remains committed to developing a manufacturing-based export economy by boosting infrastructure spending and streamlining bureaucracy.”

KENYA

kenya-flag-768x1366Primary sector: N/A

Key exports: Tea, horticultural products, coffee

2015 GDP growth: 5.6%

Unemployment rate: 40%

Exchange rate: 99.73 Kenyan shillings per dollar

“As Kenya imports almost all of its energy needs, lower average oil prices over the next decade compared to the previous decade will boost both Kenyan consumption and non-energy investment. Growth will be centered in … infrastructure (including renewable energy), financial services and retail trade.”

MYANMAR

myanmar_flag_0Primary sector: Mining

Key exports: Natural gas, wood products

2015 GDP growth: 7%

Unemployment rate: 5%

Exchange rate: 1,171.8 Burmese kyat per dollar

“Investment will continue to pour into a range of industries as Myanmar reaps the benefits of substantial political reform enacted since 2010. We believe that the trends of economic liberalisation and political democratisation will remain in place and keep the economy on track for strong growth over the coming years.”

NIGERIA

nigeriaPrimary sector: N/A

Key exports: Oil, cocoa

2015 GDP growth: 2.7%

Unemployment rate: 23.9%

Exchange rate: 196.9 Nigerian naira per dollar

“The significant growth that we forecast for Nigeria’s economy will be principally driven by the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. Financial services are a bright spot due to the relatively low penetration of financial services in the country. Retail sales will grow strongly, though mostly in the low value goods segment due to the fact that essentials spending remaining at around three quarters of total household income.”

PAKISTAN

pakistanPrimary sector: Agribusiness, oil

Key exports: Textiles, rice

2015 GDP growth: 4.2%

Unemployment rate: 6.5%

Exchange rate: 101.45 Pakistani rupees per dollar

“Pakistan will develop as manufacturing hub over the coming years, with the textile and automotive sectors posting the fastest growth at the beginning of our forecast period. Domestic manufacturing investment will be boosted by the windfall from lower energy prices compared to the last decade, and improved domestic energy supply.”

PHILIPPINES

philippinesPrimary sector: N/A

Key exports: Semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment

2015 GDP growth: 5.8%

Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Exchange rate: 45.503 Philippine pesos per dollar

“Key sectors will include autos and construction. Robust private consumption and a booming construction sector will translate into growing demand for both passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles … Ongoing economic and business environment reforms, such as an anti-corruption drive, have made the Philippines more conducive for investment.”

VIETNAM

vietnam-1242275_960_720Key exports: Clothes, shoes, electronics

2015 GDP growth: 6.7%

Unemployment rate: 3%

Exchange rate: 21,928 Vietnamese dong per dollar

“We expect the manufacturing and construction sectors to outperform… thus helping to underpin growth in the broader industrial sector. These sectors will remain attractive to foreign investors, owing to relatively low labour costs [and] the government’s gradual relaxation of foreign ownership restrictions rules.”

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JULY 10, 2016

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BANGLADESH TOPS ‘EMERGING MARKETS OF THE FUTURE’

BANGLADESH TOPS ‘EMERGING MARKETS OF THE FUTURE

rtx17q7kSun Online Desk

Latest research by major global rating agency identified Bangladesh as the toppers among leading ’10 emerging markets of the future’ — the countries that are set to become new drivers of economic growth over the next 10 years .

On Thursday, Business Insider reports, according to recent by Fitch Ratings’ BMI Research firm, new manufacturing hubs are set to emerge in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Pakistan, and other seven countries will see particularly strong growth in exporting manufacturing industries.

BMI Research estimates that these countries will cumulatively add $4.3 trillion to global GDP by 2025 — roughly the equivalent of Japan’s current economy.

7-opyFitch Ratings Inc. is one of the “Big Three credit rating agencies”, the other two being Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

“Bangladesh’s export-oriented industrial sector already accounts for more than a quarter of GDP and will continue to develop as a global manufacturing hub in the coming years.”

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JULY 07, 2016

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TOP EIGHT MOST PROMISING MARKETS OF 2016

TOP EIGHT MOST PROMISING MARKETS OF 2016

gdp-map_top_emerging_markets

Atradius picks the top 8 markets for business opportunities in 2016. These emerging markets have been showing strong performances over the past three years and are expected to improve further in 2016.

Economic conditions across emerging markets deteriorated sharply in 2015. The headwinds facing these markets are likely to continue into 2016. There are, however, some clear bright spots that are bucking the trend and showing strong performance. These are the markets with great opportunities for businesses.

Why are these markets doing so well?

Emerging markets in the spotlight

Supportive policies – In general these are all markets that have stable political conditions combined with decent macroeconomic policies. For example Peru has developed strong institutions and Colombia has recently become much safer making government policies more effective.

Commodity importers – Most of these markets benefit from the lower commodity prices, such as oil and metals, as they heavily rely on import. India, for instance, imports 75% of its oil and saved an estimated USD 2.5 billion in 2015 on fuel subsidies.

Growing middle class – These markets show strong internal dynamics with rising investment and a growing middle class. The total population in Kenya, for example, has grown by 50% over the past fifteen years, boosting the domestic economy.

Best performing sectors in these markets

Opportunities by sector

Chemicals and plastics

In India, with further growth in industrial activity and an improving performance outlook for key end-user segments, import demand for plastics and chemical goods is expected to remain strong.

Construction

In Peru, construction is a growth sector due to continued investment by the Peruvian Government. In Kenya and Tanzania dedicated construction businesses from abroad could benefit from infrastructure growth, including the building of new ports.

Retail, consumer durables and electronics

gdp-groth-2016The Asian markets of Bangladesh, India and Vietnam all provide business opportunities for exporters in the consumer durables and electronics segments, due to increasing disposable incomes, urbanisation and rising living standards. India’s retail market is expected to nearly double to USD 1 trillion by 2020 from USD 600 billion in 2015. In Vietnam there is a perceived preference for foreign brands, deemed to be of better quality and hygiene standards.

Colombia is expected to be the most attractive retail market in Latin America for foreign investors over the next five years, with private consumption forecast to remain a major driver of economic growth and as formalisation in the industry will increase (about 50% of total food retail still account for the informal retail sector).

At the same time ICT is one of the most promising growth sectors in Peru, as the penetration rate in this market is still low: only 30% of population have access to internet service. In Vietnam, the government supports the increase of household PC penetration in rural areas.

Machinery and capital goods

rmg-summit-2014A growing economy and increased infrastructure investments  provide export opportunities for machinery and capital goods businesses in India, Vietnam, Kenya and Tanzania. However, in the two latter markets price competition from Asian machinery businesses is high.

Pharmaceuticals and medical devices

Vietnam is expected to become a growth market for pharmaceuticals, as the government aims to improve the health system. Vietnam has a large, yet unmet need for healthcare and medical devices, and continued major investment is required.

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JANUARY 20, 2016

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BANGLADESH AMONG 10 COUNTRIES SET TO BECOME NEW DRIVERS OF GLOBAL GROWTH

BANGLADESH AMONG 10 COUNTRIES SET TO BECOME NEW DRIVERS OF GLOBAL GROWTH

Economic-Zones-Attracting-investment-for-growthKAYES SOHEL

Bangladesh’s export-oriented industrial sector already accounts for more than a quarter of GDP and will continue to develop as a global manufacturing hub in the coming years

Bangladesh has been named one of 10 emerging markets that are set become new drivers of global economic growth over the next 10 years.

BMI Research report says the economy is heading for impressive growth, lifted by the apparel and construction sectors.

fitchThe report released last month by the US-based research firm of the Fitch Group has identified Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan as “10 emerging markets of the future.”

The countries will add about $4.3tn to the global gross domestic product by 2025, providing significant opportunities for investors and roughly the equivalent of Japan’s current economy, the report said.

gdp-groth-2016“Bangladesh’s export-oriented industrial sector already accounts for more than a quarter of GDP and will continue to develop as a global manufacturing hub in the coming years,” according to the report.

In general, manufacturing and construction are the sectors that will drive the economies.

BMI reports that new manufacturing hubs are set to emerge in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Pakistan, and that these countries will see particularly strong growth in exporting manufacturing industries.

And construction growth is going to be widespread throughout all the countries — partly to facilitate increases in urban populations and partly to help develop the manufacturing sector, it said.

bangladesh-inflation-cpiOn the other hand, extractive industries — like mining, oil, and gas — are going to play a far smaller role in driving growth than they have in the past 15 years.

While it might provide bright spots for some countries, the report stated: “The ubiquitous commodity-driven growth model that was derailed by the 2012-15 collapse in commodity prices is not coming back.”

Growth_Gaining_Pace“In order to shortlist the countries, we considered those with per capita income of about $3,500 and below, that enjoy strong enough economic and political institutions to enact reforms, are set to enjoy rapid economic growth, boast a potentially large domestic market and have an infrastructure deficit that will lead to productivity-enhancing investment,” it explained.

6316432-flag-of-bangladesh-national-country-symbol-illustration-finance-economy-dollarBMI said a large domestic market implies strong growth opportunities for consumer industries.

“Moreover, large populations will provide significant opportunities for infrastructure and construction as urbanization rates rise,” it said.

RMG-is-the-Basic-rote-of-economical-standardization-for-Bangladesh-economyStronger institutions are typically associated with better policymaking, the protection of property rights and reform, which help to underpin growth, it added.

The think tank said the countries that experience strong economic growth will provide strong investment opportunities and returns.

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JULY 14, 2016

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BANGABANDHU’S UNFULFILLED DREAM

BANGABANDHU’S UNFULFILLED DREAM

bangabandhu_return_after_9_months_of_detention_by_saidulislam-d71imxmSHABBIR AHMED

The students of history of South Asia know it too well that the partition of India into two nations did not bode well for us, the inhabitants of the then East Pakistan.Punjabi clique ruled our motherland for a long time and that includes the military and the communal forces of Pakistan. These Islam-based communal forces tried to suppress the secular political and cultural tradition of our ancestral homeland. To implement their sectarian Islamic Ummaism, the communal ruling class of Pakistan denied the right of the Bengalis to use their language in the state of Pakistan. Even the communal ruling class tried to ban and restrict the cultural activities of our people. Most of the non-communal political and intellectual forces of erstwhile East Pakistan were frustrated under the rule of the communal system of Pakistan.

At that time, Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman organized the secular and non-communal intellectuals and other social forces of our motherland to stand against the military and their allied fundamentalist “Muslim Leaguers” of Pakistan. He received a full support (except a few pro-Pakistani collaborators) for the political and cultural freedom of the Bengalis. He continued his relentless struggle and suffered for a long time in the jails of Pakistan.

Father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur RahmanIt was possible for a towering and charismatic leader like Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to unite our people against the communal ruling classes of Pakistan, who were using Islam at all levels to keep our motherland under their Ummatic system. Bongobondhu was a believer in Islam but opposed to the use of Islam in politics. That is precisely why the first parliament in Bangladesh wrote the constitution that banned all the Islamic political parties. Bongobondhu had this farsightedness to realize that the aspirations of Bengalis could never be met by the religious traders who kowtowed the ruling Punjabi clique from the then West Pakistan.

Unfortunately, after Bangladesh’s independence the banning of the communal politics using Islam did not prevent the pro-Islamic political goons from continuing destructive politics by joining hands with many other extremists. Most of the cadres of the Islamic parties went underground. At the same time, the Maoists/communists formed underground political parties with armed cadres to carry on armed revolution inside our motherland.

Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the parliament, 1973.In the aftermath of the independence of Bangladesh, all these underground extremists created a terrible condition in the newly born republic. Even the ultra-leftists formed political parties and their armed wings (such as Gonobahini) to implement “scientific socialism,” a term not quite clear even to the proponents. To protect the country and its independence, Bongobondhu took a temporary measure to unite all the pro-liberation forces of our motherland under Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BKSAL).

Unfortunately, he along with most of the members of his family was murdered before he could  implement the programs under BAKSAL. In the wake of the independence of Bangladesh, there was a need for bringing stability in the country before allowing free-will politics. However, Bongobondhu was a leader who believed in multi-party political system. That is why, immediately after the independence he allowed political activities of all parties except the Islamic parties that performed genocide and spread communalism in Bangladesh under the occupation of Pakistani army for nine long months in 1971.

bangabandhu-comilla-military-academyAt a later stage, it was necessary to go for a restricted democracy due to the extremists of the armed wings of the communists and the defeated Islamic forces. But disregarding the restricted democracy under BKSAL, one would find pragmatism for the development of the future of Bangladesh under the leadership of Bongobondhu. The administrative reforms that were supposed to take place under BKSAL would have brought significant effects on the condition of Bangladesh.

BANGABANDHU NAVY 7All the districts were supposed to be getting autonomy under a representative executive body headed by the governor. Under this system, most of the development programs could have been implemented directly by the district administration. The bureaucratic system under the secretariat was supposed to be cut down to a minimum level. The central ministry was supposed to be mostly providing funds to the districts. The agricultural reforms could have brought self-sufficiency in food a long time ago. It was planned to cultivate under cooperatives where the government would provide modern equipments and other resources. According to the plan, the owner, the government (for providing resources), and the laborer (for providing labor) would get the share of the
production. A massive plan was undertaken to bring all the lands (including the ones that are not cultivated by the owner) under cultivation.

Bangabandhu and his cabinet after the Liberation WarUnfortunately, Bongobondhu  was  not able to materialize his vision of reforms especially in administration and agriculture because of his assassination by a few disgruntled army officers. It is noteworthy that the disgruntled army officers first declared Bangladesh an Islamic republic after the assassination of Bongobondhu. The Wahhabi hate kingdom “Saudi Arabia” and their partner Pakistan recognized Bangladesh only after the death of our great leader Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

7036_303280559807323_972374549_nMany researchers in Bangladesh and abroad wrote on the life and politics of Bongobondhu. Of them, Dr. Habibur Rahman, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Independence of Bangladesh” in 1989. Based on his Ph.D. research, Dr. Rahman later wrote a book titled “Bangladesher Obvhuddhoy O Sheikh Mujib (Rise of Bangladesh and Sheikh Mujib)” in 1991 (City Press and Publishers, Dhaka, Bangladesh). In the preface, Dr. Emaj Uddin Ahmed (a former vice chancellor of Dhaka University) wrote on Bongobondhu as “a leader ever memorable like Mahatma Gandhi, Sukornao, Kamal Pasha, et al.”

mujibIn this book, Dr. Rahman wrote elaborately and neutrally like a researcher on the rule under Pakistan and the political programs and organization under the leadership of Bonbondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Especially, he wrote about the difficulties encountered by the government under Bongobondhu in the post-war Bangladesh. He mentioned about the destructive activities of the opportunists in his own party and the extremists belonging to the armed wings of different underground political parties. Despite the failures in controlling the chaotic condition in the post-war Bangladesh, Dr. Rahman wrote about some far reaching successes of the government. In particular, he highlighted the decision of the government in taking over the financial responsibilities of all the primary schools in the villages and tax exemption for the poor farmers (up to 25 bighas of land).

We can come to know from his research that the government for the first time provided forty thousand power pumps, ten thousand shallow pumps, and three thousand deep pumps to the farmers of Bangladesh. Dr. Rahman elaborately mentioned about the programs (under BKSAL) taken by then government a bit early to eradicate poverty and hunger through massive cooperative programs in the agro-based areas in the villages throughout Bangladesh.

bangabandhu-in-islamic-summit-1974Those who observed Bongobondhu closely and studied his policies and rule, gives overall positive high marks for his sincerity to eradicate poverty and communal Islamic politics from the soil of Bangladesh. It is a tragedy that the people of Bangladesh lost such a great leader only after three and half years of the independence of Bangladesh. All the Bengalis regard him as the founder and the father of the nation of Bangladesh except a few followers of the military rulers and the followers of the political Mullahs who were our Fifth Columnists.

The descendants of the communal forces ideologically attached to the Mullah-Military alliance of Pakistan and Bangladesh try to create controversy on Bongobondhu. In fact, their followers are now in the catbird seat of power. They are the ones who are re-writing the textbooks to inject confusion amongst the future generations of Bangladesh. But, they won’t be able to succeed because it is the “truth” that ultimately will prevail.

bangabandhu-231Bongobondhu’s contribution for Bengalis will remain afresh in the minds of millions of people. It is a small wonder that in a BBC survey he was voted as number one Bengali to set foot in this mortal world.

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The writer , a researcher and  commentator, writes from Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
SEPTEMBER 08, 2016

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THE SHEPHERD KING

THE SHEPHERD KING

bangabandhu-immortalSAIFUL ISLAM AZAD

This year the nation observed the 41st death anniversary of the founder of Bangladesh, the Father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On August 15, 1975 he was brutally murdered by a group of assassins, along with most of his family members. On the darkest day of our history, the loving and affectionate Begum Mujib, her sons and their newly married wives, 10-year-old Russel, and other members of the family were killed.

We mourn this loss more and more with each passing year, as his towering image dawns on our mind and consciousness, with greater relevance — and we express our wrath and abhorrence towards the disgruntled military officials who were involved in the massacre, more with each passing year.

It is true that a bullet can kill a human’s life, but it cannot kill the ideologies, thoughts, and achievements of a man like Mujib as he was a rare personality in contemporary history. He was a statesman — handsome, charismatic, confident, popular, simple, farsighted, and patriotic.

540464_409014129148865_1125195452_nNewsweek Magazine on April 5, 1971, following the declaration of independence on March 26, 1971, said: “Tall for a Bengali (he stood at 5 feet 11 inches), with a touch of graying hair, a bushy moustache, and alter black eyes — Mujib can attract a crowd of million people to his rallies and hold them spellbound with great rolling waves of emotional rhetoric. He is a poet of politics. So his style may be just what was needed to unite all the classes and ideologies of the region.”

Time Magazine, on January 17, 1972, wrote: “The history of the Indian sub-continent for the past half-century has been dominated by leaders who were as controversial as they were charismatic — Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Jawaharlal Nehru. Another name now seems likely to join the list, Sheikh Mujibur (“Mujib”) Rahman, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.”

BANGABANDHU SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN AND THE SAUDI KING FAISALThe great modern Bengali novelist Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay said: “From the ocean of time, the eastern part of Bangladesh — otherwise known as East Bengal or East Pakistan — is emerging with a new spirit, a new aura, in a new magnificent figure. She is borne up on the head, deity-like, by the 75 million people of East Bengal.

Mujib was such a revolutionary leader that his name and fame spread worldwide. The Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro said: ‘I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas’

IWDRFGTYH“Their leader is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the friend of Bengal. A historical conflict has drawn to a close and a new chapter is being written.”

Mujib was indeed a popular leader who had reached the pinnacle of political fame and authority by the hard work of ceaselessly addressing the people’s problems, and not by whining about his own misfortunes.

bangabandhu-with-BREZNEVJames J Novak said: “Sheikh Mujib brought an immediacy to the political environment. He never tired the people by sophisticated ploys or half-measures. He had no love for the government office.”

bangabandhu-with-marshall-titoNovak portrayed Mujib’s personality by saying: “As for the Sheikh, hard work shaped his style. Indefatigable, he walked across fields from village to village, and mingled with the people, sharing their rice, dal and salt, remembering names, praying at mosques, sweating in fields, visiting flood sites, weeping at funerals and milads.

He empathised mightily, instituted sympathetically, and reached out and touched — not golf clubs and club chairs but the people’s sweaty hands. He knew what the people believed because he could explain things not only in terms they could understand but in one they respected. Knowing that, they believed he did not need to lie.”

bangabandhu-immortal-2Mujib was such a revolutionary leader that his name and fame spread worldwide. The Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro said: “I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas.”

Castro made these observations after he met Bangabandhu in 1973 during the Non-Aligned Summit in Algiers. His remarks reflect the height of respect Bangabandhu commanded, internationally.

Journalist Cyril Dunn of the London Observer said: “In the 1,000-year history of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujib is the only leader who has, in terms of blood, race, language, culture, and birth, been a full-blood Bengali. His voice was redolent of thunder. His charisma worked as magic on people. The courage and charm that flowed from him made him a unique superman in this time.”

mujibIt was Bangabandhu who brought freedom to this land named Bangladesh, which never existed as a free state in greater Bengal before.

This portion of Bengal was once part of Vanga, Samatata, and Pundra State and it was also part of large empires such as the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire, and part of the regional Buddhist Pala Empire (8th-11th century) and Sena Empire (11th–12th century).

Thirteenth century onward, the region was controlled by the Bengal Sultanate, Hindu kings, and Baro-Bhuyans landlords under the suzerainty of the Mughal Empire, until the British East India Company took control of the region from the Mughals in the late 18th century.

The historic homecoming day of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur RahmanThe greater Bengal was divided during India’s independence in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal (a state of India) and East Bengal, a part of the newly created dominion of Pakistan that later became the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

After the pre-historic period till 1971, no leader or king ruled this part of Bengal (Bangladesh) as an independent state. And no ruler was a Bangalee like Bangabandhu in terms of blood, race, language, culture, and birth.

We know about many kings who were prone to extend their state’s area, but they never thought or fought for the freedom of the people like Bangabandhu did.

As a human being he had too much belief and confidence in his people for whom he struggled his entire life, not realising that all good people had enemies. History will remember him as a person who loved his country and its people — unconditionally.

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AUGUST 20, 2016

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BANGABANDHU AND HIS IDEOLOGY

BANGABANDHU AND HIS IDEOLOGY

bangabandhu-and-his-bangladesh

ARUN KUMAR GOSWAMI

THE UNDYING IDEOLOGY OF BANGABANDHU SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN

The most recent observation of Public Administration Minister, Syed Ashraful Islam, M.P. on Bangabandhu’s assassination in the night of 14 August is worthy enough to analyze the tragic episode through the prism of ideology. Islam said, ‘The night of 14th August was chosen to kill Bangabandhu, because Pakistan was born on this Day. Bangabandhu’s sin had been that he led the birth of Bangladesh by breaking their (killers) desired Pakistan. For this reason only, those who opposed the liberation war had brutally killed Bangabandhu.

Such conspiracies are still going on.’ Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman  and India’s Father of the Nation Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been the worst victims of violence. The assassinations were most atrocious form of national tragedy that the two nation-states had witnessed. However, the ideological consequences of Bangabandhu’s assassination in 1975, were much more grievous than the killing of Mahatma in 1948.

young-mujib-suhrawardySince the assassination of Bangabandhu actually, a culture of violence has been growing in Bangladesh with the active patronization of ‘dominant groups’. The process could be termed as Pakistanization of Bangladesh.  Nevertheless, the trial of assassinating Mahatma had been accomplished within a very short time. On the other hand, trial of killing Bangabandhu had been fully stopped by beneficiaries by enacting `indemnity law’. Besides, it was none other than the daughter of Bangabandhu, who dared to repeal the notorious law for bringing the killers into book.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at a rally of the 21st February (Language Martyrs Day)Bangabandhu witnessed Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent action to stop the blood-spattered hostility during ‘Direct Action Day’ of Muslim League in 1946, when communal violence had broken out in Kolkata. Written during Bangabandhu’s stay in jail as a state prisoner between 1967 and 1969, “The Unfinished Memoirs” begins with his recollections of his days as a student activist in Kolkata in the run-up to the movement for Pakistan.

sheikh-mujib-agartalaDescribing about a time when people had been attacking and killing each other every now and then and an occasion when Gandhiji did not speak to anyone or give speeches as he did on Sundays, Bangabandhu wrote, “The Mahatma wrote something for the occasion and his secretary read it out. The man was a magician. People cried out immediately, ‘Muslims and Hindus are brothers.’ The whole atmosphere changed instantly.” Bangabandhu cited another instance when rioters pledged not to indulge in violence after Gandhiji told them that he would resort to a hunger strike if they did so.
After Kolkata, Gandhiji had gone to Noakhali on 7 November, 1946. He stayed there for four weeks.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MUJIB TAKEN PRISONER 26TH MARCH 1971‘In Noakhali, Gandhiji went from village to village through the muddy paddy fields. He carried his holy books. He appealed to Hindus and Muslims, men and women that they should pledge not to kill each other and ensure peace. …All the Muslims were pleased to see him and respected him (Shaheen Choudhury 2012).’

Both Bangabandhu and Mahatma were not in favour of leaving one’s motherland. With a few exceptional situations, they were also not in favour

bangabandhu sheikh mujib-06It is often pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi came to Noakhali (Bangladesh) to stop Hindu-Muslim riot, on the other hand, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah came to
Dhaka (Bangladesh) to confiscate Bengalee’s mother tongue in the name of religion. However, since Gandhiji’s mission of peace in 1946 (in Bangladesh), two most important things happened.  The British colonizers left and Bangladesh was entrapped into the religious-colony of Pakistan in 1947.

Dhaka 1972 - Founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman holding kerchief weeps upon his entrance into a liberated DhakaLater on, after bloody struggle led by Bangabandhu against Pakistan, the country became independent in 1971 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. Like the general perceptions of the people, legendry Professor Abdur Razzak had considered Bangabandhu as “a symbol of Bangladesh”. In a seminal talk at the University of Dhaka in 1980 Razzak said “. . . in those dark days, in that testing time, among the millions wh00o would constitute the nation, there was no misunderstanding and there was no ambiguity.  Bangabandhu alone was the symbol.”

1954 Jukta Front Cabinet Members, From left(front) - Khairat Hossain, Sheikh Mujibur RahmanHowever, the ugly face of communalism reappeared more violently following the assassination of Bangladesh’s Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman in 1975. When Gen Zia-ur-Rehman became the president of Bangladesh and launched the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, he rejected ‘Secularism’ and ‘Bengali nationalism’ from the constitution. The erosion of the secular character of Bangladesh further deepened when Gen Ershad declared Islam as the state religion. However, the promotion of Bangladeshi nationalism and the declaration Islam as the state religion by the martial law regimes of Gen Rehman and Gen Ershad aimed to provide legitimacy to their undemocratic rule.
Mentionably, losing the Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of Nation of India just after the hard-won independence under his leadership was the biggest misfortune for the country.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman talks with journalists upon his arrival in London from Pakistan on 8 JanuaryHowever, Bangabandhu’s assassination on 15 August 1975 deprived Bangladesh of its founding father at a time when the process of nation building had been going on.
The assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse was arrested immediately after he assassinated Gandhiji, based on a F. I. R. filed by Nandlal Mehta at the Tughlak Road Police station at Delhi. The trial, which was held in camera, began on May 27, 1948 and concluded on February 10, 1949. He was sentenced to death.  On the other hand, to save the killers, the beneficiaries of Bangabandhu’s assassination, declared notorious ‘Indemnity Ordinance’. Later on, another beneficiary and the martial law administrator and President General Ziaur Rahaman incorporated this ‘ordinance’ in our holy ‘Constitution’ as ‘Fifth Amendment’.  The killers were “sent abroad as diplomats,” observers said. “Many countries, especially in the Middle East, accepted them.”

bangabandhu-and-the-six-point-magna-cartaTo mark the day of assassinating Mahatma Gandhi the Republic of India observes 30 January as ‘Martyr’s  Day’. However, Bangladesh began the trial of Bangabandhu’s
assassination after his daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was abroad during the coup, became prime minister in 1996 and overturned the notorious indemnity law after 21 years of its enactment. Apart from the beginning of the trial, the government had declared 15 August as National Mourning Day.  Nevertheless, the murder of Bangabandhu, along with his family members, was followed by a series of killings. In November 3, 1975, four of his close associates and veteran leaders of liberation war were brutally killed in Dhaka Central Jail.

bangabandhu-1953This event both damaged and produced a crack within the nation which has not yet been bridged. This dissection and decay of the polity deflected Bangladesh from the course set by its liberation struggle which had provided the basis for the foundational principles of the Bangladesh constitution: democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism.
Since that fateful day in August, each of these basic principles has been uncovered to contestation or even utter repudiation. This assault on the very principles of our
nationhood has destabilised the nation, compromised the working of our democratic institutions and thereby  weakened the process of governance. It could, thus, be safely
said that the bullets which killed Bangabandhu were also intended to destroy the very idea of Bangladesh for which the liberation war was waged.

bangabandhu-with-marshall-titoThe assassination of Gandhiji was a culmination of decades of systematic brain-washing. Gandhiji had become a thorn in the flesh of the hard core Hindus and in course of time this resentment turned into a phobia. Beginning with the year 1934 over a period of 14 years on as many as six occasions attempts were made to kill Gandhiji. The last one by Godse on 30-1-48 was successful. The remaining five were made in 1934, during the months of July and September 1944, September 1946 and on 20th January 1948. Godse was involved in two previous attempts. When the unsuccessful attempts of 1934, 1944 and 1946 were made, the proposal regarding the partition and the matter regarding release of Rs. 55 crore to Pakistan were not in existence at all. The conspiracy to do away with Gandhiji was conceived much earlier. The grounds advanced for this heinous crime are clever rationalization to hoodwink the gullible. The staging of the play entitled, “Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy” is a clear proof of the fact that the mindset that led to Gandhiji’s assassination has not disappeared from the national psyche of India.

the-founder-of-bangladesh-was-not-always-the-separatist-and-nationalist-he-was-projected-to-be-supporters-cheering-banglabandhuUnder the leadership of Bangabandhu’s daughter,  today we have already brought some of the killers to justice.  We are honouring Bangabandhu’s memory through forty days of mourning.  But can we reignite the message of his life by re-establishing the values of humanity, democracy, secularism, nationalism and social justice which guided his political life? Can we construct a society which can re-establish the rule of law, which punishes criminals irrespective of their political colour, which can let our minorities enjoy the same rights and opportunities open to the majority community, not just in principle but in practice?

598560_501581459876258_359202241_nCan we look forward to a Bangladesh where the landless could aspire to cultivate their own land, the property-less could become shareholders in the corporate empires of the business world, the slum-dwellers could expect to own their own homes, our small farmers could share in the value created by their insistent work on the farm-land or our millions of women who sustain our garment industry could expect to share in the profits created by their long hours of labour?

When the followers of Banglabandhu speak of implementing his dreams, they should keep such goals in mind. Otherwise, Bangladesh will continue along the long path we
have travelled since 15 August 1975, which has distanced us from Bangabandhu and his ideology.

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The writer is Chairman, Department of Political Science and Director, South Asian Study Circle, Jagannath University, Dhaka
SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

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SOUTH ASIAN REGION MISSES BANGABANDHU’S LEADERSHIP, SPEAKERS IN NEW DELHI

SOUTH ASIAN REGION MISSES BANGABANDHU’S LEADERSHIP, SPEAKERS IN NEW DELHI

dailysun_bangabandhuSun Online Desk     16th August, 2016

 

Recalling their personal memories during the 1971 War and the post-war reconstruction period, speakers at a discussion in New Delhi on Monday said the era ‘badly missed’ the tall leadership of Bangabandhu, particularly in the context of slow progress in establishing shared peace, progress and prosperity in the whole South Asian region.sheikh-mujibur-rahman-and-indira-gandhiWith his ‘dynamic and charismatic’ leadership, peace and prosperity in the region could have been established much earlier, they said at a panel discussion paying tributes to Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, reports unb.But they commended the ‘bold leadership’ of his daughter, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for taking forward the sentiment and dream of his father in absence of him for the betterment of peace and prosperity in Bangladesh as well as in South Asia and beyond.

HK Dua, a former member of the Rajya Shabha, former member of National Security Advisory Board and renowned journalist, Muchkund Dubey, President of the Council for Social Development, former High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh and former Foreign Secretary of India and Brigadier General Onkar Singh Goraya, a valiant fighter of Bangladesh’s Liberation War were among the panelists.

Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the parliament, 1973.The panel discussion on the theme of ‘Bangabandhu’s vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia and beyond’ was organised followed by screening of a documentary on the glorious life of Bangabandhu at the High Commission, according to a message received here from Delhi on Monday night.

High Commissioner of Bangladesh Syed Muazzem Ali moderated the session.

Bangabandhu_Sheikh_Mujibur_Rahman_in_Bangladesh_Liberation_War-1972The High Commissioner in his opening remarks mentioned that despite all adversaries, Bangabandhu dedicated his life to the freedom and independence of his people.

“His undaunted and relentless demand for Independence of Bangladesh was the source of inspiration and aspiration to all freedom fighters to fight for our Liberation War in 1971.”

Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi observed the National Mourning Day 2016, the 41st Anniversary of Martyrdom of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation today at the High Commission with due solemnity.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman RETURNSThe programme was attended by a large number of ambassadors, diplomats, dignitaries and expatriate Bangladeshis.

On this day in 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect of independent Bangladesh, was assassinated at his residence along with most of his family members by a group of derailed soldiers in one of the bloodiest assassinations in the history of the world, causing an irreparable loss to the nation.

bangabandhu_sheikh_mujibur_rahman_3The High Commissioner of Bangladesh hoisted the National Flag at half-mast in the morning.

Messages from President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and State Minister of Foreign Affairs were read out.

Special prayers were offered seeking salvation and eternal peace of the departed souls of the Father of the Nation and his martyred family members, as well as continued peace, progress and prosperity of Bangladesh.

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AUGUST 16, 2016

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COMMISSION ON BANGABANDHU MURDER NOT ALLOWED TO WORK

COMMISSION ON BANGABANDHU MURDER NOT ALLOWED TO WORK

Bangabandhu-his-family-members

A commission was constituted in London headed by Sir William Thomas, QC, MP to carry out investigation into the killing of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, most of the members of his family on August 15, 1975 and four national leaders on November 3, 1975. But the commission which was formed on September 18, 1980, failed to conduct its activities as the then government refused to give visa to one of the members of the commission to visit Bangladesh for the investigation purposes, according to a book titled “Bangabandhu Killing – Facts and Documents” by Prof Abu Sayeed.

sheikh-hasina-17-may-1981-1President Ziaur Rahman was the head of the government at that time. According to the book, the commission was formed in response to the application of two daughters of Bangabandhu present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, son of Mansur Ali Mohammad Selim and Syed Ashraful Islam. The commission was formed to investigate the reasons that were hampering the legal and trial process of the incident. After the formation of the commission, the first meeting of it was held at the committee room of the House of Commons with Sir William Thomas in the chair in September, 1980.

nixon-kissinger-1A statement was given at a press conference on the same day highlighting the formation of the commission and its working procedures. After examining all evidences, the commission came to a conclusion that the incident was committed by a few number of military personnel led by some retire and existing officials.

front-1975-newspapersAmong the officials who fled the country included Lt Col Faruk, Lt Col Abdur Rashed, Major Shariful Haq (Dalim). Lt Col Faruk, Lt Col Abdur Rashed, Major Shariful Haqwere identified as the leaders of the military coup. The commission also took the interview given by Lt Col Faruk in the Sunday newspaper, London on August 30, 1976 admitting his responsibility of killing of Bangabandhu, most of his family members and four national leaders. It decided to send a member of the commission to Dhaka on January 13, 1981 to investigate the reasons that are hampering the legal and trail process of this incident.

Bangladesh High Commission in London informed the commission that it would give visa but later, it informed that the High Commission would not give the commission member visa. After this incident, the commission came to a conclusion that the legal and trail process was not allowed to go in its own course and it held the then government responsible for it.

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AUGUST 19, 2015

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WHO KILLED SHEIKH MUJIB?

WHO KILLED SHEIKH MUJIB?

bangabandhu-portrait-1ABDUL MANNAN

The month of August is a month of mourning for the people of Bangladesh, especially for those who believe in a secular, democratic ideals and the spirit of our Liberation War. On 15th. of August, 1975 the leader who created a Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sk. Mujibur Rahman was brutally murdered with his entire family in his private residence in Dhanmondi Road No. 32 by a group of sacked, retired and serving mid-ranking military officers. The senior masterminds remained behind the screen. Two daughters of Bangabandhu, Sk. Hasina and Sk. Rehana escaped the bullets of the assassins as they were in Germany at that time. This was the most brutal assassination of the century and every year the day is observed as National Mourning Day.

bangabandhu-returnsThis year the country observes the fortieth year of that fateful dark night. Many would like to believe that the killing of Mujib and his family was the deed of a group of sacked, retired and serving soldiers whereas the truth is people involved in the killing included many others. Many of them belonged to the ruling party Awami League and people running the civil and military administration.

AUGUST 16, 2016 NEWPAPER 3No military coup is possible in a country like Bangladesh unless the coup makers get support from outside forces. In the case of Bangladesh the conspirators were profusely helped by two countries, US and Pakistan. From fifties onwards US gained notoriety in helping conspirators to get rid of democratically elected governments and installing puppet dictators.

imageThe US government always used the CIA to mastermind all the conspiracies with the help of local conspirators. The first such dirty work carried out by US after the Second World War was the overthrowing of democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. Gamal Abdel Naser of Egypt, Ahmed Ben Bellah of Algeria, Soekarno of Indonesia, Makarios of Cyprus, Salvador Allende of Chile and Mujib of Bangladesh all were the unfortunate victim of the plots masterminded by US with the help of the local willing lackeys as it happened in Bangladesh.

IWDRFGTYHThough all contemporary  US governments preach their commitment towards democracy seem to have an inherent liking for military dictators and autocratic regimes. History provides ample proof on this. Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, General Suharto of Indonesia, Marcos of the Philippines, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Hoque and Pervez Musharraf  of Pakistan, Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh, the successive military dictators of Thailand and Myanmar, South Vietnam,  Augusto Pinochet of Chile all enjoyed the blessing of the US governments since Second World War. It is an irony that the country which produced great Presidents and leaders like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King feels comfortable with dictators and autocrats as their bedfellows.

yasir-arafat-bangabondhu-and-also-gaddafiThe conspiracy against the Liberation War of Bangladesh began in the midst of the war itself led by Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed, the Foreign Minister of the Government in exile. Though Mushtaque was an important leader of Awami League and close to Bangabandhu, his political belief was more aligned to right of the centre. Mushtaque was known to be very ambitious. Though he and many others fled to India after the military crackdown on March 26 and joined the government in exile in 1971, a large number of them were sceptical of the success of the war against the well equipped modern Pakistani army by the ‘rag-tag’ Mukti Bahini. Among these sceptics most were civil bureaucrats while some were politicians of whom Khondakar Mushtaque was prominent. From the very beginning they expressed their concern about the success and formed an axis around Mushtaque and began preaching their scepticism amongst the Mukti Bahini trying to demoralise them.  At one time they even distributed leaflets among the Mukti Bahini forces saying that their first priority was to release Bangabandhu from Pakistani prison and for that they might even have to suspend the independence movement temporarily.
This of course was part of a bigger conspiracy. Secretly Mushtaque established contact with the US Consul General in Calcutta through Mahbubul Alam Chashi the foreign secretary of Government in exile and Awami League MP from Comilla Jahurul Quyium. They wanted to send a message through US government to Yahya Khan that the War of Liberation would be stopped once Yahya released Mujib. They also suggested that a loose confederation could be forged between the two wings of Pakistan once the Liberation War comes to an end.

mujib-killersAll these began in the month of August. Henry Kissinger the then Secretary of State in Nixon administration in US vividly describes the spread of the conspiracy canvas in his best selling book ‘White House Years.’ Indian intelligence agencies came to know about the conspiracy and tipped off Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister of the Bangladesh Government who began to sideline while taking decisions relating to the matters of the state. Mushtaque was even prevented to lead a team of Bangladeshi delegation to UN in the month of October.

Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad portraitThough Bangabandhu failed to assess the conspiratorial character of Mushtaque, Tajuddin Ahmed could easily read Mushtaque and assess his plans. Mushtaque was relieved from his post once the government in exile moved to Dhaka after December 16, 1971.  Mushtaque did not take this in good earnest and waited for an opportune moment to take his revenge. Unfortunately Tajuddin was later removed from the cabinet by Bangabandhu himself on the behest of Nixon administration and Bangabandhu and his family and the nation paid a high price for this. Nixon administration had a congenital disliking for Tajuddin as he was very critical of US administration’s policy towards Bangladesh’s Liberation War and their support for Yahya’s genocide in Bangladesh. US was a big player in global politics in the sixties and seventies and Bangabandhu mistakenly thought if receiving US’s assistance to rebuild the  war devastated Bangladesh their wishes need to be honoured. Tajuddin had to go. Bangabandhu and the nation had to pay a high price to prove that he was wrong.

hqdefaultThe conspiracy after a brief pause once Bangladesh was liberated from the Pakistani occupation forces resumed with more vigour and larger spread. Most of those who collaborated with the Pakistani forces in 1971 found refuge in Maulana Bhashani NAP and the newly formed JSD led by Major (Retd) Abdul Jalil, Sirajul Alam Khan and A S M Abdur Rab. They were all very close to Bangabandhu. Chhatra League was split and so was many other Awami League affiliated organisations. Pakistan’s notorious military intelligence service ISI was pressed into action by Bhutto. On December 16, 1974 Comrade Abdul Hoque of Bangladesh Communist Party (M-L) wrote to Bhutto addressing him as ‘My Dear Prime Minister..’ requesting him for providing funds, arms and wireless equipments to unseat the ‘puppet’ regime of Mujib. Bhutto acknowledged the letter and wrote in a note that ‘He is an honest man. Take all necessary steps to fulfill his desire.’

bangabandhu-comilla-military-academyBhutto entrusted the responsibility of deposing Mujibs’s government on one Abdul Malek a close confidante of Bhutto. Malek travelled to Arab countries with Maulana Kawsar Niazi of PPP and an Advisor of Bhutto to create anti Mujib sentiment among the Arab rulers.

Bangabandhu and Bhutto March 1971It was only after Bangabandhu’s death that Saudi Arabia and most Arab countries and China recognised Bangladesh. All these are objectively described in the book ‘Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan’ written by American researcher Stanley Wolpert. Nixon Administration was hyper-active on overthrow Mujib government conspiracy. In the country the harvest was bad because of successive floods. The price of essentials rose overnight due to hoarding by some unscrupulous traders and rise in the international oil prices following the Arab-Israel war. Bangladesh had foreign exchange reserve to pay for its imports. Government of India and former Soviet Union and other East European countries sent some commodity aid. Bangladesh even began practicing barter trade but it had only few thousand bails of jute to exchange. The Ghorashal Fertiliser factory was blown off by saboteurs.

bangladesh-sheikh-dies-during-coup-e1461365184756The Chittagong and Mongla ports were inoperative till 1973 due to the floating mines left by the retreating Pakistani army. Even before the administration was put in place in the newly created country Maulana Bhashani brought out a ‘procession of the hungry’ (Bhukha Michhil) in September of 1972 in Aricha trying to drum up the anti Mujib government sentiment. US sent some relief but most of them were useless as they comprised of skirts, bikinis, baby strollers. A consignment of food aid under PL480 was taken back by US on the pretext that Bangladesh sold some jute bags to Cuba, its declared ‘enemy state.’ That same Cuba is now on the threshold of becoming one of  the most friendly state of US. Politics is a strange game.

AUGUST 16, 2016 NEWPAPER 8Bangabandhu realising the gravity of the situation ordered that free feeding centres be opened in the affected areas. But the opponents of Mujib and his government were not convinced. JSD created an armed underground outfit called ‘Gonobahini’ to carry out subversive activities across the country. They with the help of absconding Al-radars and Razakars did these successfully by burning jute godowns and jute mills.

p_002By 1974 the entire security system of Bangabandhu was taken over by the repatriate Pakistani soldiers or by those who willingly served Pakistani occupation forces in 1971. Unfortunately Mujib was in the dark while all these were taking place though he was warned number of times by the Indian intelligence RAW. Mujib treated everyone as his own son and believed the sons will never harm their father. How wrong he was! A section of the armed forces became restive and they were mostly repatriates from Pakistan. They did not endorse the decision of giving the freedom fighters two years’ seniority by the government and publicised that the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini (JRB) was getting more funds from the defence budget and the Mujib government has a plan to abolish the armed forces and replace it with JRB.

p_001All these were totally concocted and fabricated stories. In fact JRB got only 9 percent of the defence budget. The conspirators capitalised on the discontent of the then Deputy Chief of Army General Zia who was very unhappy when he was superseded by General Shafiullah who was made the first Army Chief of independent Bangladesh. Somehow Bangabandhu could sense that Zia was an over ambitious officer. The conspirators, including Col (Retd) Rashid, Major (Retd) Farookh met Zia in March and shared their plan to remove Mujib from state power and replace him with someone of their choice, meaning Khondakar Mushtaque. Rashid was a close relative of Mushtaque and he maintained a contact with Mushtaque. Zia consented to the plan but said as a senior officer he will not be a party to the execution of the plan. Zia’s service was placed before the Foreign Ministry in March and he was designated to take up a diplomatic position either in Belgium or East Germany. Zia, taken aback, made contacts with some Awami League leaders close to Bangabandhu to have an appointment with the President which was arranged. He met Bangabandhu and informed him in clear terms that as a professional soldier he would like to continue his professional life in the Army. He told Mujib his loyalty towards him was total. Mujib trusted the wily Zia and ordered the cancellation of his diplomatic posting. The rest is history.

15-aug1975-3Zia was the biggest beneficiary of Bangabandhu’s killing. Rashid confessed his meeting with Zia in a televised interview in London later. The conspirators needed a support from a powerful country and that they found in US. Contact was established with US Embassy in Dhaka. US Ambassador Eugene Boster and CIA’s Station Chief Phillip Cherry teamed up to help the conspirators. By early August the noose closed in around Bangabandhu and Bangladesh.

front-1975-newspapersWhen the first salvos of bullets were fired at the Father of the Nation the Muazzein was calling the believers to Fazr prayers. The non-believers were on a brutal killing mission. Mujib, the Bangabandhu, the Father of the Nation, was killed with his entire family on that dark night by the very people whom he trusted as his sons. After the killing of Bangabandhu, Bangladesh began its journey to become a mini Pakistan as the conspirators desired.

sheikh-mujib-dead1Mushtaque, the master conspirator, died a natural death on March 6, 1996. His Namaj-e-janaza could not be held in Dhaka fearing public reprisal. His close relative and currently one of BNP’s policy makers Khondakar Musharaf Hossain made arrangements to take his dead body to his village home in Daudkandhi. When BNP formed a government in a one party election held on Februay 15, 1996 an obituary reference was made in the parliament on the master conspirator Khondakar Mushtaque terming him as a hero. Khondakar Mosharraf Hossain, the then BNP law maker, making a long speech on Mushtaque termed him as a ‘great parliamentarian who contributed to the great Liberation War of 1971.’
Mujib was an all time great politician, a statesman and a loving human being. But his love for his people was blind and it cost him his life. Politicians like Mujib have millions of followers but also have enemies. A small number of enemies are enough to bring the citadel of power, democracy and the state crumbling down. History is full of such examples.

bangabandhu_return_after_9_months_of_detention_by_saidulislam-d71imxmLong live the memory of Bangabandhu and those killed on the fateful night of August 15, 1975.

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AUGUST 14, 2016
ABDUL MANNAN is an analyst and commentator

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Posted in - REVOLUTIONARY VOICES -, BANGABANDHU - Father of our Nation, BENGAL - Heritage, BENGALI NATIONALISM, CHALLENGES, CURRENT ISSUES, Friends & Foes - World Reaction, HISTORY OF BENGAL, LEADERS - IN ITS TRUE SENSE, LIBERATION - 1971 BIRTH OF A NATION, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories | Leave a comment

WHAT BANGABANDHU DID FOR US

His people still love and respect him beyond words. He loved them to a fault, and they still love him in return. As long as the Padma and the Meghna flow….

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

WHAT BANGABANDHU DID FOR US 

bangabandhu sheikh mujib-06Junaidul Haque

Forty years after his death, how do we remember Bangabandhu now? What does he mean to us?

What does Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman mean to the 150 million people in Bangladesh? He was the best politician we ever had. He was the selfless leader who fought his whole life for an independent country for his Bangali brothers and sisters. He achieved his goals but, tragically, he had to leave us too soon, like quite a few other third world nationalist leaders.

His people still love and respect him beyond words. He loved them to a fault, and they still love him in return. As long as the Padma and the Meghna flow, Bangabandhu will be fondly remembered by his people. His deeds will keep him immortal. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman founded independent Bangladesh after fighting for our rights for 24 long years. He…

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AUGUST 15 AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF BANGLADESH

BANGABANDHU’S assassination on 15 August 1975 prematurely deprived Bangladesh of its founding father at a time when the process of nation building was still incomplete….

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

AUGUST 15 AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF BANGLADESH

Bangabandhu Sheikh, Bangabandhu Portrait– REHMAN SOBHAN –

BANGABANDHU’S assassination on 15 August 1975 prematurely deprived Bangladesh of its founding father at a time when the process of nation building was still incomplete. This event both destabilized and created a fissure within the nation which has not yet been bridged. This division and destabilization of the polity deflected Bangladesh from the course set by its liberation struggle which had provided the basis for the foundational principles of the Bangladesh constitution: democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism. Since that fateful day in August, each of these foundational principles has been exposed to contestation or even outright repudiation. This assault on the very principles of our nationhood has destabilised the nation, compromised the working of our democratic institutions and thereby weakened the process of governance. It could, thus, be argued that the bullets which killed Bangabandhu were also intended to…

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LONG SHADOW OF THE AUGUST 1975 COUP

“The CIA station chief in Dhaka, Philip Cherry, was actively involved in the killing of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” US author and journalist Lawrence Lifschultz wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review and later in his book “Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution.”

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

LONG SHADOW OF THE AUGUST 1975 COUP

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“The CIA station chief in Dhaka, Philip Cherry, was actively involved in the killing of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” US author and journalist Lawrence Lifschultz wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review and later in his book “Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution.”

Lifschultz who investigated the matter for many years and interviewed many sources, both Bangladeshi and American, came to the conclusion that the American hatred for Bangladesh started way back in 1971 when the Bangladesh Liberation War almost upset Kissinger’s grand design of a “Sino-American Détente” where Pakistan was the “honest broker”.

Bangladesh Sheikh Dies During CoupLifschultz writes that during the War the Americans tried to divide the Liberation movement by cultivating some Awami League leaders like Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed. But when that plot failed and Bangladesh became independent, soon after, America’s “Super Diplomat” National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger considered it to be…

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THE RELEVANCE OF BANGABANDHU – ANALYSIS

THE RELEVANCE OF BANGABANDHU – ANALYSIS…

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

THE RELEVANCE OF BANGABANDHU – ANALYSIS

artworks-000042284884-lokyvn-originalBhaskar Roy

Every August 15 observers of Bangladeshi politics are taken back to that fateful day in 1975 when a group of young army officers stormed Dhaka in a meticulously planned operation. The entire family of Sk. Mujibur Rahman, known as the founder of the nation, was gunned down. Even his son, nine year old Russell was not spared. Only two survived because they were out of the country – his elder daughter Sk.Hasina, and younger daughter Sk. Rehana.

Elsewhere in Dhaka, two ministers of Sk.Mujib’s cabinet, Khondakar Mustaque Ahmed and Taheruddin Thakur, were pacing nervously in their house on August 14 late evening. It was only after they received the news of the extermination of Sk. Mujibur Rahman and his family that they relaxed and got to work with their “friends” inside and outside the country.

312504_161724977240928_160501724029920_334733_1541178_n

Far away from Dhaka in Washington D…

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KISSINGER’S VISIT TO BANGLADESH WAS OMINOUS

KISSINGER’S VISIT TO BANGLADESH WAS OMINOUS…

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

KISSINGER’S VISIT TO BANGLADESH WAS OMINOUS

kissinger101

Before the brutal murder of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975 the visit of the US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was quite significant.

On October 30, 1974 Kissinger made a 19-hour stopover in Bangladesh. During the visit he met Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib for a couple of hours at the “Gonobhavan.”

According to US journalist Lawrence Lifschultz, “A month after Kissinger left Dhaka the conspirators at the US Embassy became active.”

killing-of-intellectuals-ytProf Abu Sayeed in his book Bangabandhu: Facts and Documents and Lifschultz in his Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution writes about it elaborately.

After talking to Bangabandhu, Kissinger addressed a press conference where he described Bangabandhu “as a man of vast conception”.

When asked why he had sent the Seventh Fleet against such a man, Kissinger avoided a direct response and hurriedly left the conference room.

16book1According to Lifschultz those who were aware of Kissinger’s…

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KISSINGER COMPARED BANGABANDHU TO ALLENDE

KISSINGER COMPARED BANGABANDHU TO ALLENDE…

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

KISSINGER COMPARED BANGABANDHU TO ALLENDE

Chile

“The Trial of Henry Kissinger” noted journalist Christopher Hitchins, former editor of Harper’s magazine, wrote “Kissinger had received some very bad and even mocking press for his handling of the Bangladesh crisis, and it had somewhat spoiled his supposedly finest hour in China. He came to resent the Bangladeshis and their leader, and even compared (this according to his then aide Roger Morris) Mujib to Allende.”

220px-The_Trial_of_Henry_Kissinger“As soon as Kissinger became Secretary of State in 1973, he downgraded those (the US diplomats stationed in the US Consulate in Dhaka) who had signed the genocide protest in 1971,” the book says. About Kissinger’s trip to Bangladesh, Hitchins says, “In November 1974, on a brief face-saving tour of the region, Kissinger made an eight-hour stop in Bangladesh and gave a three-minute press conference in which he refused to say why he had sent the USS Enterprise into…

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WHY 15th AUGUST 1975 IS SO RELEVANT TODAY ..

BANGLADESH - Audacity of Hope

WHY 15th AUGUST 1975 IS SO RELEVANT TODAY ..

sheikh-mujib-dead1– EHSAN ABDULLAH –

It had been forty two years, there were ups and downs, good times and bad, but as a nation did we achieve any of the following dreams of our liberation, why did we fight? what was the reason? where did it start? who were the central figures? it should have been the most exciting folklore in our hearts and minds, giving shape to the collective responsibility towards the land we all share, but unfortunately the fact remains, we don’t know, we still fight about our birth, why is that? Who are we? What is our identity? 

 A man’s identity is a matter of so much importance, which we don’t comprehend. A person may born without a father, without a mother, a person may be born rich or poor, but there is one thing that every man is born with, his/her…

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ISLAM, A SECULAR RELIGION

The title of this piece should raise eyebrows. How could Islam be secular? Religion and secularism are generally thought to be contradictory to each other. More so with Islam, a religion which, in recent times, has been associated with so much intolerance. There is almost certainty in the minds of many that Islam is the anti-thesis of secularism.

This common belief is a result of misunderstanding secularism as godlessness. Juxtaposing this conception of secularism with Islam, which has been revealed to uphold the sovereignty of God, one naturally sees Islam and secularism at two opposite ends.

However, secularism can be understood as the neutrality of religion or tolerance, especially when it comes to State affairs. A secular State treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and avoids preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion/non-religion over other religions/non-religion.

Can Islam allow this neutrality? The answer should be a resounding “yes!”.

xislamic-education-480x330-1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.H3BMMQNr2YThe very opening verse of the Quran (the first verse of Surah Fatiha) refers to God as “the Lord (Sustainer) of all the worlds (Rabbul Al-Ameen)”. The very last Surah (Nas) begins by referring to God as “the Sustainer of men (human-kind)”, followed by “the Sovereign of men” and “the God of men”. Nowhere in the Quran is God referred to as the Lord or Sustainer of Muslims only.

The Quran even emphasises that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was sent “as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds” (21:107). Thus, Islam is a universal religion.

These were the arguments our great leader Moulana Bhashani made to secularise the Awami League, which he founded as the Awami Muslim League.

The Holy Quran categorically states, “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith” (2:256). It also explains the plurality of beliefs as a will of God, “Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life (Sharia). And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.” (5:48).

We also find in the Quran, “for, every community faces a direction of its own, of which He is the focal point. Vie, therefore, with one another in doing good works.” (2:148). This “unity in diversity” is frequently stressed in the Quran (e.g., in 21:92-93, 22:67-69 or in 23:52 ff.).

SURAH AL KAFIRUNIslam prohibits explicitly abusing other religions or deities that non-Muslims worship. Allah is fully mindful of the risk that the abuse of other beliefs poses to peace in society and asked the Muslims to leave the final judgement to Him alone. Thus, we find in the Quran: “And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance. Thus have We made fair seeming to every people their deeds; then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did” (6:108).

The same message can be found in 2:114, “Hence, who could be more wicked than those who bar the mention of God’s name from [any of] His houses of worship and strive for their ruin…?”

In his commentary on the above verses, Muhammad Asad, one of the leading modern day Islamic philosophers, says that according full respect to every religion which has belief in God as its focal point is one of the fundamental principles of Islam. This principle was clearly illustrated in the Prophet’s treatment of the deputation from Christian Nazjran (then part of Yemen) in the year 10 H. They were given free access to the Prophet’s mosque, and with his full consent celebrated their religious rites there, although their adoration of Jesus as “the son of God” and of Mary as “the mother of God” was fundamentally at variance with Islamic beliefs.

maxresdefaultNowhere is the command for tolerance as explicit as in Surah Al-Kafirun (No. 109). “O you who do not believe! I worship not what you worship, and you are not worshipping what I worship; nor am I worshipping what you worship; neither are you worshipping what I worship. Therefore, to you your religion; and to me my religion!” (109:1-6).

In fact, the defence of religious freedom is the foremost cause for which arms may and, indeed, must be taken up: “For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed.” (22:40).

Islam permits fighting only for self-defence and to protect the oppressed: “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us out of Your Grace one who will protect; and raise for us out of Your Grace one who will help!’”(4: 75).

“As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably. God only forbids you to turn in friendship towards such as fight against you because of [your] faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or aid [others] in driving you forth.” (60:8-9).

If Islam grants religious rights then how can one explain the special tax (Jiziya) on non-Muslims? Commonly, Jiziya has been understood as a protection tax or extortion aimed to convert non-Muslims by humiliating them as a second class dhimmi position in a Muslim land. Unfortunately, this is a misinterpretation. Many Muslim scholars are responsible for this misinterpretation, as they have failed to note that the Quranic injunction of Jiziya is mentioned only once in Surah Al Tawbah revealed when non-Muslims declared war on Islam and against Muslims. In the same context, the Quran also asks Muslims not to befriend non-believers or take them as their protectors.

Prophet_Muhammad_Charter_of_Privileges_to_Christians_AD628Thus, Jiziya can be imposed only on the conquered until such time they accept their defeat. It is not intended to force others to accept Islam. It cannot be levied on a non-Muslim citizen living in peace. This is very clear from the Quranic injunctions contained in verses 8-9 of Surah Al Mumtahinah (No. 60), cited above, “to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity”. “Treating all citizens with full equity” is a fundamental principle for a civil or secular democratic state.

Muhammad Asad translates Jiziya as “exemption tax”, imposed on protected non-Muslims in lieu of their obligation to join the war (Jihad), while all able-bodied Muslims are religiously obliged to join the military. Non-Muslims are also exempted from Zakat (“purifying dues”) that Muslims must pay. Neither is Jiziya a poll tax as some critiques describe it. On the basis of clear-cut ordinances promulgated by the Prophet (a) all women, (b) males who have not yet reached full maturity, (c) old men, (d) all sick or crippled men, (e) priests and monks and (f) all non-Muslim citizens who volunteer for military service are exempted from the payment of Jizya. Furthermore, it is based on the ability to pay as implied by the expression ‘an yad’ (lit., “out of hand”) meaning “power” or “ability”.

isis5In Abu Dawud, one of the authentic compilations of Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet), it is recorded, “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I [Prophet Muhammad] will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment”.

The Prophet emphasised in many letters to his emissaries that religious institutions should not be harmed. For example, we find in a letter addressed to his emissary to the religious leaders of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai who has sought the protection of the Muslims:

BvGFtKPIQAEJzUZ“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are declared to be protected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation [Muslims] is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day [end of the world].”

9087928In a letter to his governor in Egypt, the Fourth Caliph of Islam, Ali (May God be pleased with him) wrote: “Sensitize your heart to mercy for the subjects, and to affection and kindness for them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them, for they are of two kinds; either your brother in faith or like you in Creation” (Nahju ‘l-Balagha, letter 53).

Thus, Islam does not pose any challenge to a secular State; rather it promotes a multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic state, where all citizens are treated equally, and judged only on the basis of the degree of their good deeds.

Unfortunately, Islam nowadays has become synonymous with violence and intolerance due to the acts of some who are interpreting the Quran and Hadith in a very narrow way. Their citations from the Quran and Hadith are taken out of context. Artefacts and religious symbols (from both Islamic and pre-Islamic eras) are destroyed by this small radicalised fringe. They are using the Prophet’s destruction of idols in the Kabah to justify their attacks on the symbols of other religions, without realising that the Prophet’s act was to do with reclaiming the first house of worship to restore it to its original status after his victory over the pagan Arabs. He did not destroy any other houses of worship.

In the name of “purifying” Islam, they are killing more Muslims than non-Muslims, while Allah has decreed human life as sacred. Their purification campaign seems directed more towards Muslims than non-Muslims.

_80755905_militantsLet us reflect on the message contained “[And as for My messenger,] there is no [obligation] on him except to deliver [the message].” (5:99). “And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed, all of them entirely. Then will you compel the people until they become believers?” (10: 99). “But if they turn away [from you, O Prophet, know that] We have not sent you to be their keeper: you are not bound to do more than deliver the message.” (42:48).

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Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, Australia and held senior positions at the United Nations in New York and Bangkok. 
JULY 20, 2016

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