HUMANITY VS INDECENCY
In 1999, my mother, Hasna Hena Qadir, passed away suddenly. She was buried by colleagues of her husband at the military graveyard in Banani. I spent night and day there with my younger brother for 40 days, because in our hearts we believed Ammu would be scared to stay alone and in darkness. Our fear of the dark and the graveyard was gone. I have not missed a week since – if I was in town – to visit my mother and pray for her. Death changes many things.
BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko also passed away suddenly. He was only in his mid-40s. I knew Koko and also his elder brother Tarique, because we stayed in Dhaka Cantonment, and we were children of senior army officers.
Arafat was not as visible as Tarique, and I remember both of them had ever-smiling faces. I went with my mother to their residence when their father General Ziaur Rahman was killed in an abortive coup. The gate was open, and security personnel only enquired about the identity of the people coming to console the Zia family. My mother went to the room where Begum Zia – then just a housewife – was grieving while we waited in another room where Tarique was seated.
Today, I pray for the peace of the departed soul of Arafat, and that Begum Khaleda Zia has the strength to bear the loss.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a mother herself, felt the pain of such a loss and rushed to console Khaleda Zia at her Gulshan office where Khaleda had been staying since January 4 as a mark of protest against the government.
Unfortunately, the gate remained locked, and the PM had returned without being able to console Khaleda Zia.
The BNP gave many explanations, but it was simply clear that the leadership, even if we take that Khaleda Zia was sleeping, failed to show the minimum courtesy to a pained citizen, leave aside the prime minister herself.
Never before, I think, has anybody heard of such behaviour at such times. Sheikh Hasina is the prime minister and she represents the people now. Refusing her entry is an insult to Bangladeshis. This is not a fight between two families over disputed land, but it seemed so to me.
The BNP gave a message: The Awami League was in power, which the BNP deserved but didn’t have, and thus they would not allow Sheikh Hasina to step in. Whoever has been pulling the strings, some say the string stretch up to Europe, has taken this as a personal fight, rather than a political battle.
I do not agree with the opinion that had the two ladies met, there might have been an impasse. What could have happened at most would be an appreciation of the gesture, and talks on different lines, outside of politics.
Those who kept the premier waiting at the gate for nearly eight minutes and then kept the gate locked from inside most likely had no proper upbringing, or for that matter forgot that there are courtesies that are above politics.
Khaleda’s aide Shimul Biswas said that he had come with the condolence book, but by then the PM had left. The question is: Do you expect the PM to stand at the gate and write in the condolence book? Is that courteous?
That was a lie, as the PM’s aides say they never saw him with a condolence book.
I talked to a few BNP leaders, and they all agreed that the PM was mistreated, and it is a shame.
The BNP officials were screaming not to make the death of Koko a political issue, but sadly, they did it themselves by insulting the PM and taking the focus off Koko to the dirty affair at the gate. The BNP’s culture has been always uncourteous.
Khaleda Zia screamed uncourteously at Sheikh Hasina over telephone, then she screamed at a police officer as “Gopali” to mean she was from the PM’s home district of Gopalganj. And now, the gate scandal. Her elder son has been slandering the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, even though he was being criticised by those in the BNP.
The PM has shown great restraint and statesmanship in dealing with all these incidents, but why should she continue to tolerate them? Some BNP leaders or pro-BNP professionals tried to say Sheikh Hasina came to make a political score. Let me give them two personal incidents which clearly shows that the prime minister has lot of humanity, and is pained by others’ pain.
When my mother passed away, I was the general secretary of the Oversaes Correspondents Association of Bangladesh (OCAB). My mother was one of the principle founders of the Ekatturer Ghatal Dalal Nirmul Committee. The PM called to express her grief, and later sent me a personal condolence letter. Was she trying to score a point in this case? It gave me strength as an orphan.
Begum Raushan Ershad came, along with many others, to console me and my siblings as part of the army family.
Then in 2010, I requested her to help me protect my father’s grave, located at a private grave in Chittagong. In turn, she ordered that my freedom fighter father’s remains be taken from Chittagong to Qadirabad in Natore district.
The cantonment is named after my father, and he was buried there with full state honours on the instruction of Sheikh Hasina. Was she scoring some points here? She honoured my father, my family, and all other freedom fighters by her gesture with no gain, except our heartfelt gratitude.
The question now should be, with all due respect to BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia: Has she been able to understand the pain of losing a dear one upon Koko’s death? If so, she should immediately order the end of terrorism in the name of politics. May Allah help her. I appeal to her: “Auntie” (as I call her), please rebuke me for writing this, but stop such violence that is leaving families in pain, in distress, and helpless.
JANUARY 30, 2014