“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
. . . Or does it explode?
— Langston Hughes, ‘Harlem’

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib had a dream for Bangladesh in the early seventies,
which had to be deferred for various reasons. But what did happen to his

This short article examines why Bangabandhu was out on a limb trying
to forge a coalition among various political forces to come up with a united
political system so that the weak and malnourished child who was born in
1971 had a fighting chance to grow. Without much ado, let me delve into this
tangled tale, which is not an easy one to narrate.

The political dynamics of Bangladesh puts the country in a unique position
in the world. This is so due to two reasons. Firstly, the nation was born
after defeating a ruthless genocidal occupation army. Secondly, within a
little more than two and half years the nation became captive of the
strategic allies of the brutal force who successfully convinced many as if
they were the ultimate guarantors of people’s democratic aspiration in this
new republic of 75 million people.

The country coming out of ashes of a bloody liberation war witnessed rampant
corruption and nepotism culminated during the short-term government ruled by
the party, Awami League, which was assumed to be the vanguard of liberation
movement. When the people were ready to sacrifice everything to build their
 Sonar Bangla, they observed in disgust, a great majority of the Awami League
stalwarts were busy making money by hoarding, extortion and manipulating
commodity market by buying and selling license and permit which was easy to
obtain. Because of nepotism and favoritism a good percentage of the
opportunists happened to be “temporary Awami Leaguers,” who were never
members of Awami League, but merely chameleons who changed colors in changed
circumstances. The shattered dream of the millions of Bangladeshis in the
post-liberation era gave the defeated force of 1971 a good opportunity to
maneuver. They had allies in the right wing of Awami League and of course in
the army barracks of Bangladesh.25321_108990259140368_100000881846276_62563_341832_nAlthough the whole Bengali nation got direct assault from the marauding
 Pakistani army junta, the killers and collaborators found a new lease of
 life because of Awami League’s serious flaw in governing a newly emerged
country. The enemies of Bangladesh liberation got a propaganda victory by
saying, “oh, those were the good old days of Pakistani raj.” The process of 
national amnesia of Bangladeshis started. And when on August 15, 1975, the
Pakistani evil force succeeded in toppling a government of its disliking,
hardly anybody noticed the sinister design, though.

The blueprint of 1975’s tragedy did not start on a single day. While 
Bangabandhu was overconfident about his personal safety and security, he was
presumably not fully aware that his tilting toward Soviet bloc resulted in a
renewed alignment of Pakistani-Saudi-US Axis. Pakistanis and Saudis were
hostile to the nascent republic during all these years of Awami League rule.
It was hardly surprising that quite a few Bangladeshi Jamat-i-Islami 
leaders, hounded for their heinous war criminal roles during the war of
liberation would find sanctuary in both of these countries.

p131Even after liberation of Bangladesh, USA did not detach itself from the
Nixon doctrine of 1971 periods. Soviet leader Brezhnev’s continuous harping
of “Asian Collective Security” was a real challenge to US policy makers.
Thus, the old bedfellows of 1971 reconnected among themselves with a mission
to nip in the bud the prospect of encountering another Fidel Castro in South
Asia. It goes without saying that the ” Fidel Castro” was nobody but 
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Although the architects of BAKSAL (Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League)
 dreamed of redefining the political landscape of Bangladesh in socialistic
 model, one important thing they totally ignored. True implementation of 
socialism may achieve some results with a dedicated cadre who could take the
bold steps of coming out of petty bourgeois mindset.

Awami Leaguers to the grassroots level had middle-class affinity.
 Traditional Awami League politics taught them anything but socialistic
 values. Moreover, during the two years after liberation many of the party
workers in rural areas to urban centers got the taste of “easy money” with
corrupt practices. It was not realistic to expect to reach a socialistic
goal with such misguided party cadres.

bangabandhu-arafat1Nonetheless, formation of BAKSAL antagonized a number of political forces in
Bangladesh. They were as follows:

1. A coterie of the Awami League right-wingers who were sympathetic to
 US-Pakistan Axis during war of liberation. It is true that many of them
believed in multiparty democracy. But the way BAKSAL was formed made them
apprehensive of the rising tide of Soviet lobby in Awami League itself.
Among these factions, a fringe group was determined to reverse the process
even if that needed to eliminate the Bangabandhu from the picture.

2. True democrats in Bangladesh who were devastated with the suspension of
all political activities and formation of a single party entity. They
believed in democratic pluralism but as champions of morality they could not
think of supporting bloody toppling of the new political formation or siding
with the Pakistani lobby. Their ultimate motto was to wait and see.

3. A group of Bangladeshi army officials who did not abandon the old values
of Pakistan where pro-westernism and Islamism mixed in a platter which would
be combative to global communism, especially of Soviet variety. Multi-party 
democracy or democratic pluralism was not their cup of tea as great majority
of them were groomed under Pakistani military dictators like Ayub Khan or
 Yahya Khan. They were alarmed at the possibility of emergence of Soviet
style socialism in Bangladesh and they were ready to stop the process at any
cost even if it resulted in bloodshed.

Aside from this group, there were other army officials who had become
disgruntled with Awami League’s continued policy of benign neglect of
cantonment and emphasis of Rakkhi Bahini. The grievance of the latter group
gave the former enough strategic inspiration to change the course of

4. The defeated forces of Bangladesh, i.e., The Fifth Columnist. They
included all the Islamist parties like Muslim League, PDP, Jamat-i-Islami,
Nezam-I-Islami, etc. And also the auxiliary forces of Pakistani Army,
namely, the former members of Razakar, Al Badr and Al-Shams. It is true that
many of these elements saved their skins because of the nepotism policy of
 Awami Leaguers. But they perceived Awami League to be their eternal enemy
and blamed the party for their ill fate. They realized that if BAKSAL got
full control of the country, they could never make the situation favorable
to their ideology.

5. Pro-Chinese political parties and ultra-left parties scattered around the
country. Many of these party members openly sided with Pakistani Army and
were adversaries of freedom fighters. After the country became independent,
some of those ultra-leftists went underground and were active in secret
killings of Awami Leaguers and rural landlords. For them, Pakistani
influenced politics was far better than Soviet influenced BKSAL. As a
significant portion of those ultra-leftists believed in the bloodshed,
inevitably they were in favor of a bloody ouster of BAKSAL regime.

6. Last but not the least, the formidable enemy of Awami League, namely,
 Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal. This party was getting enough clout in educational
institutions across the nation. In the village level its underground fronts,
namely, Gono Bahini and Bangladesher Communist League were gathering
experience in killing Awami Leaguers and confronting Rakkhi Bahini. Although
 JSD was proponent of “Scientific socialism”whatever it means, it was not
thrilled to see a left wing metamorphosis of Awami League. This party was
ready to push the country to a bloody civil war with the clear ambition of
eliminating Awami League from the political power.

bangabandhu04Some critics of BAKSAL often give the reasoning that one-party-system would
wreak havoc in Bangladesh as it was against democratic pluralism. The fact
is after the liberation, Bangladesh had faced immense difficulty in building
democratic institutions. Already the legacy of Pakistan under successive
military regimes of Ayub and Yahya kept the Bengalis in dark about the
essence of democratic values for more than a decade.

MUJIB MAONot only that, prior to Ayub Khan’s ascension to power, a few palace cliques
and intrigues deprived the Bengali masses of being active partners in the
political process. It is also noteworthy that after liberation, because of
 Awami League’s absolute majority representation in a national parliament,
voice of dissent was not a common-scenario. The parliament became almost a
rubber stamp institution. And Awami League hooligans’ muscle power and their
regular clash with the rival parties’ muscle men was nothing close to a test
case of democratic pluralism.

Most newspapers decided not to rock the boat for fear of reprisals. They 
showed a symptom of subtle appeasement of the ruling party. Probably only
paper, Haq Katha, a tabloid of the National Awami Party (Bhashani) was
 staunchly critical of Awami League and its party members. So, when BKSAL was
 formed, the average citizens did not miss much. After all, pre-BAKSAL 
Bangladesh was not an epitome of democracy, as some critics would like to

p134Expecting democratic pluralism on the basis of simply multi-party system is
not always pragmatic. The Institutional Revolution Party of Mexico ( PRI)
ruled that country for more than seventy years. The ruling party made sure
winning in the election is guaranteed for decades. There was corruption at
the highest level; there was drug trafficking and secret killing. The people
were living in a less than civil society and the ruling elites amassed
amazing wealth.

During PRI’s draconian rule, how the election in that US’s neighbor was
stolen is now an open secret. The PRI oligarchy was prudent enough not to
antagonize the northern neighbor so the continuity of rule went unabated.
Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and General Suharto of Indonesia ruled
their countries with iron grip. Both the authoritarian leaders appeased
western allies so that a constant cash flow could be secured.

p154The urban 
middle class was typically not very unhappy with this arrangement. These
”less then democratic” rulers ruled their respective countries for years to
come hardly facing serious challenge at home and abroad. The ousted
President Alberto Fujimori of Peru showed the world how autocracy thrived in
a multi-party democracy. The record of Fujimori may pale many authoritarian
rulers’ misdeeds all around the world.
During the time of Cold War, U.S. administrations supported a number of
right wing military dictators in the Latin and Central America. From
Paraguay to Chile, Argentina to Brazil, Nicaragua to El Salvador, Uruguay to
Guatemala, the countries were shadowed by unsavory regimes.

There were numerous instances of human rights violations while most of the
regimes were corrupt to the teeth. Death squads were formed to suppress
political dissidents. Civilians’ accused of being sympathizers of left
politics disappeared in the middle of the night. Death squads acting like
the Nazi German Gestapo or East German Stassi were active in their evil
designs. Today’s unclassified documents in archives around the globe are
showing horrific evidence of the dark days of Cold War.

bangabandhu-with-BREZNEVThese documentations are enough to disclose that some democratic nations do
not always promote democracy. In Bangladesh, in the post 1975 time, two
successive military rulers with western and Islamist leanings proved that
infusion of hard cash could make miracles. With a relatively satisfied urban
middle class, the iron men from the barracks played Houdini with ease. Both
 the right wing military dictators ostracized Bangabandhu and the concept of
 BAKSAL as vestiges of totalitarianism. They acted as if they were the
ultimate saviors of western style democracy.

In reality, they had iron grip in all matters of state power that included
 executive and judiciary bodies. During election, their manipulative acts
gave them startling results of 80 to 90 percent supports, which is rare in
pluralistic democracy. They made sure they would not be ousted by ballot
forever. Because of their commitment to thwarting Soviet influence in this
 South Asian nation, the Bangladeshi military dictators obtained significant
 support from not only the proponents of western democracy but also from
theocratic regime such as the Hashimite Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

bangabandhu-with-hafiz-al-assad-of-syria1Bangabandhu’s dilemma was how to bypass the already proven corrupt and
nepotistic Awami League hierarchy to significantly change the political
dynamics. He was gradually coming closer to pro-Moscow Communist Party of
Bangladesh and its front organizations. In a CPB conference, Bangabandhu
 told the party leaders that he considered them (the Communists) real
patriots as his own party men were drowning in corruption. It could be
attributed to be just a lip service or a public relations ploy. But the
construction of BKSAL proved to be his inclination to the Soviet line
 politics in Bangladesh.

p135The experiment of forming Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League was not
well received by many old Awami Leaguers who felt that that was tantamount
to decimating Awami League. Moreover, decentralization of administration and
the concept of agrarian reform were far from the traditionalist Awami League 

If BAKSAL was formulated like the Iranian mullah’s Supreme Council without
any socialistic goal, may be Uncle Sam would not be so much perturbed. If
 BAKSAL incorporated notable Razakars, Al Badrs, Jamats and if the newly
formed party had an Islamic agenda and insignia, Saudi recognition to
Bangladesh would have come immediately. Maybe within a few months after the
formation of Islamic BAKSAL, Bangladesh would have been flooded with

2012-08-05 00.54.32BAKSAL came as a radical concept when the country already passed the stage of
”radicalism” of Bangladesh liberation. I am using the term radical in this
context because the liberation war itself was too radical for most Awami 
Leaguers who were used to constitutional form of politics.

Secondly, BAKSAL gave power to many well-known corrupt Awami Leaguers in
certain areas while they would become little emperors in their domains.
Thirdly, BAKSAL included most of the notable pro-Soviet Communist party
leaders (their student fronts and labor fronts) in its high command. Wasn’t
it enough to ring an alarm bell in certain countries’ capitals where
democracy and antipathy toward Soviet hegemony were the everyday mantras?

Bangabandhu was a leader at the time of living dangerously. In the era of
 superpower rivalry, the birth of Bangladesh occurred rather quickly as a
result of consistent effort of Soviet bloc countries and India. And these
 guardians of the infant country did not have the resources to feed the
 millions. Like many radical Third World leaders, Bangabandhu thought 
socialism would be the panacea to all ills and he worked in that direction.
 In the process he alienated a vital power of the world comity of nations. He
 was walking on a razor’s edge and thus it almost becomes an academic
 question whether his early demise was a historical inevitability.


JAMAL HASAN writes from Washington DC.


About Ehsan Abdullah

An aware citizen..


  1. ehsannewyork says:

    Reblogged this on BANGLADESH – Audacity of Hope and commented:

    Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib had a dream for Bangladesh in the early seventies,
which had to be deferred for various reasons. But what did happen to his


  2. Pingback: Bangladesh ups efforts to bring back killers of founding father - VientianePost

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