Syed Badrul AhsanOn his final night alive, hours before he was assassinated, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spent time reading George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. Here, in this month when he came back home as the Liberator of Bangladesh in January 1972, we present a sample of the vast literature which has grown up around the historical personality of Bangladesh’s founding father. 

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib
Koekti Oitihashik Dolil
Radical Asia Publications

Abdul Matin, who died a few years ago, had been researching Bangabandhu’s life and politics since the early 1970s. In this work, he draws extensively from documents previously in the hands of foreign governments, notably the United States, to explain the circumstances that led to the assassinations of August 1975. There are too some rich pickings from Keesing’s, those that will be of immense help to anyone interested in studying the history of Bangladesh. It is especially the conspiracy that led to the killing of the Father of the Nation that arouses his interest. Included in the work under survey are some hard truths, those that political authors have sometimes pointed out. Among them are details pertaining to the letter purportedly written by the leftwing Bengali politician Abdul Haq to Pakistan’s prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto seeking assistance in the matter of pushing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government from office.

Sheikh Mujib
Triumph and Tragedy
The University Press Limited

The work happens to be one of those rare studies in the English language of Bangladesh’s founding father. For years there has been a vacuum where presenting Bangabandhu to the outside world is concerned (not that much headway has been made in the matter). So what S.A. Karim, who served as a leading Bengali diplomat in the early years of a free Bangladesh and who saw many of the dramatic events unfold before his very eyes, does here is present an image of Bangabandhu and his leadership of the country in as realistic a manner as possible. The writer does not shy away from criticism of Mujib he feels is deserving. Mujib’s role in the movement for regional autonomy and his leadership of the independence movement are commented on in great detail. And then Karim dwells on the issue of why Mujib went for a change from multi-party democracy to one-party rule in early 1975. In the manner of so many others, the author does not appreciate the transformation and ends up giving the impression that Baksal was a bad move for which Bangabandhu paid dearly.

Shorone Bangabandhu
Mawla Brothers

The former diplomat is in awe of Bangabandhu. In this slim volume, he reflects on the politics of the Father of the Nation and, more importantly, on the human qualities of the man. The language is simple and lucid and Choudhury properly gives out the impression that he is hugely impressed by the charisma of the leader.
Faruq Chowdhury’s work does not go into the intricate details of how Bangabandhu governed or how his government functioned. But that the government was confronted with a plethora of difficulties from day one to the end of Bangabandhu’s life is made clear. And, of course, the vast conspiracy that was always at work in order to destabilize the government is broadly hinted at.

Sheikh Mujib
Bangladesher Arek Naam
Dipti Prokashoni

The w ork promises much to those who plan to research the evolution of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. The life of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, so Atiur Rahman conveys the impression and justifiably too, is fundamentally the history of Bangladesh, of the struggles its people have carried on through generations.The author does a marvellous job of bringing together all the significant events of Bangabandhu’s political career. But surely the beauty of the work lies in the detailed, chronological presentation of facts he engages in. It is thus that the Six Points, Eleven Points, Declaration of Independence, et cetera, come to readers in a form that enable them to understand the movement of history in this part of the world. On balance, it is a useful work, not to be ignored.

Shotrur Chokhe Bangabandhu
Anupam Prakashani

A work that is rather different from the usual assessments that are made of the Father of the Nation and his politics. Mohammad Hannan focuses on the views people not kindly disposed toward Bangabandhu happen to express about him. In a way, one could say, the author is coming forth with the other side of the picture, that which Mujib’s opponents have drawn up of his politics.You may not be convinced by what Bangabandhu’s detractors have to say about the Bengali leader here. But it is worth a try reading the book. The book is, once again, quite a departure from works which usually flood the markets. Try reading it. You might end up liking it.

Rajniti O Proshashon
Bangabandhu Parishad

Bangabandhu Parishad has been an intellectual forum for the Awami League or, more appropriately, its followers. As such, this work is in its totality a collection of essays from a wide range of individuals on the diverse aspects of Bangabandhu’s politics and administration. Obviously, the write-ups are appreciative of Mujib’s positions on the various issues he faced. You may not agree with everything, but you surely will get the drift of what the Father of the Nation tried to achieve during the brief three and a half years he was in power.

Ekatturer Muktijuddho Roktakto
Moddho August O Shorhojontrer November
Shahitya Prokash

Shafayat Jamil was a key player in the dramatic events that were to unfold in November 1975. As part of the team led by Khaled Musharraf to reclaim the state from the predators who had commandeered it barely three months earlier, he was instrumental in forcing Khondokar Moshtaq to resign and the killers of Bangabandhu and the four national leaders to quit Bangabhavan. The book deals with three historical aspects. There is the history, in however brief a fashion, of the war of liberation. That is followed by a comprehensive discussion of the tragedy of August 1975. And then, of course, comes an explication of the incidents and events leading from 3 November to 7 November 1975. Jamil is a survivor, a fortunate one. All the other leading figures of the Musharraf-led coup perished in the counter-coup spearheaded by Colonel Abu Taher. Ziaur Rahman emerged as the eventual beneficiary, with such disastrous results.

Father of the Nation
Bangabandhu Memorial Trust

An admirable album of photographs and images of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, beginning with his schooldays and ending with the end of his life in August 1975. The pictures are interspersed with quotes from the Father of the Nation, all expressive of his thoughts regarding the course Bangladesh should be taking on its journey to the future. Copies just might yet be had at Bangabandhu Memorial Museum on Dhanmondi 32, the spot that is today part of Bangladesh’s history — of its glories, of its dark tragedies.

Ekatturer 26 March
Bangabandhur Shadhinota Ghoshona
Bangla Prokashoni

Mohammad Shahjahan’s focus, as the title of the book makes clear, is on the events surrounding the declaration of independence in March 1971. With various quarters trying to stir up controversy over what actually happened on 26 March and especially with the rightwing attempting to build up Ziaur Rahman as the man who formally announced the country’s independence, the author presents the facts he thinks settle the issue once and for all. Shahjahan comes forth with documents, with news reports of the period in question and thus adds substance to his assertion that Bangabandhu did indeed send out the message of freedom to the country before he was taken into custody by the Pakistan army in the early hours of 26 March 1971.

Geneva-e Bangabandhu
Radical Asia Publications

Once again it is Abdul Matin, this time with an account of Bangabandhu’s stay in Geneva following surgery in London in mid 1972. The Father of the Nation was in a state of convalescence in Switzerland, but that did not deter him from meeting any and every Bengali who came calling on him. Matin provides a fascinating account of all the men and matters that came to Bangabandhu’s attention during that time — the genuine ones, the insidious ones and the plain hangers on.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Sharokgrantha
Jyotsna Publishers

This is a rich collection of articles on the life and achievements of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It comes in three volumes and brings together a rich assortment of ideas from diverse personalities, all of whom are united by a common position on the 1971 war of liberation and the ideals set by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through the 1960s and 1970s. The volumes testify to the many facets of the Mujib character, those that have always made him stand out in the crowd and stand apart from his contemporaries. You really must appreciate the endeavour of those behind the compilations.

The Unfinished Revolution
Zed Press

The work comes in two segments. Lifschultz dwells at considerable length on Colonel Abu Taher and his ultimate end on the gallows in one. In the other, his subject is the personality and government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the difficulties it came up against and the conspiracies which proved to be its undoing. Lifschultz writes with considerable bravery, which is again natural considering his status as a foreigner. He focuses on a number of salient points about the coup of August 1975 and while doing so points the finger at foreign governments he suspects clearly knew, if they did not exactly take part, in the programme to eliminate Bangladesh’s founder.

The Trial of Henry Kissinger

This surely is an acclaimed book, not least because Hitchens made a reputation for himself as a plain-speaking writer. The work is divided into several chapters, the better to explain the nature of Henry Kissinger’s sinister policies in places as diverse as Chile and Bangladesh. Where the matter is one of Bangabandhu’s assassination, Hitchens leaves little doubt that the American establishment knew all about it before it happened. He comes down hard on then US ambassador to Bangladesh, Davis Eugene Boster (he misspells the name as Booster).The bigger significance of the work is the author’s focus on Kissinger’s deep hatred for Bangladesh, a nation that had the audacity to break away from the American client state of Pakistan. Kissinger snubbed Mujib in Washington by not being present at the White House meeting between the Bengali leader and President Ford, but a short while later he sought to make amends, by visiting Dhaka and calling on Bangabandhu. It is a revealing book, a collector’s item.

Ponchattorer Roktokhoron
Afsar Brothers

Rafiqul Islam’s book traces the entire history of the conspiracy that lay at the root of what happened on 15 August 1975. He names names and is often surprised that the very men who worked diligently for Pakistan in the days of rising Bengali nationalism or even after Bangladesh declared its independence in late March 1971 were chosen by Bangabandhu to be near him, and literally at that.It was these very men who destroyed the Father of the Nation.

Who Killed Mujib?
Vikas Publishing House

One of the earliest books on the tragedy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the work was published in 1981), it explores the wide network of conspiracy that was to take the life of the Father of the Nation in 1975. A.L. Khatib, a prominent journalist with roots in Sri Lanka but based for the better part of his career in the South Asian subcontinent, brings out some intricate details of the plans shaped to do away with Bangabandhu. The criticism is there that the book was written in haste. Perhaps, but what certainly is of importance is that there is hardly any instance Khatib cites about the tragedy that one can be dismissive of. A whole range of characters people the book. Apart from Bangabandhu, there are all the other characters, notably the ‘little sparrow of a man’ that was Khondokar Moshtaq as also the political figures who constantly used to be around Mujib but at dawn on 15 August were found in the usurper’s company.

From Rebel to Founding Father
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Niyogi Books, New Delhi

The work is a recent assessment of the life and achievements of the Father of the Nation, beginning with his foray into student politics in pre-partition Calcutta and ending with his assassination in Dhaka. In the process, the writer touches on the philosophy that worked in Bangabandhu’s gradual rise to pre-eminence in Bengali politics. Emphasis has also been placed on some of the crucial, and fateful, moves he made in post-Liberation Bangladesh, especially the growing rift between him and his steadfast lieutenant Tajuddin Ahmad.

Distant Neighbours
A Tale of the Subcontinent

A book published in the early 1970s, months after the emergence of Bangladesh, it is essentially a series of interviews the veteran Indian journalist conducted with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Dhaka and Islamabad. The theme focuses on the interaction between the two men in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s liberation in December 1971, when Bangabandhu was first placed under house arrest in Rawalpindi by his nemesis and then freed to return to a free Bangladesh. Nayar’s conclusion is revealing: he finds Mujib’s account of the talks to be truthful while Bhutto simply dissembles. The work is an interesting character study of the two men who played significant roles in the history of the subcontinent in 1971.





JANUARY 06, 2015
Syed Badrul Ahsan is with The Daily Observer

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This family portrait of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with his wife and children hangs on a wall inside the Bangabandhu Museum on Dhanmondi 32. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana are the only ones who survived August 15, 1975. (Dhaka Tribune could not verify the identity of the photographer)

These are some of the witness accounts from court on how the coup was carried out from the cantonment

Forty four years after the black night of August 15, the cases filed in 1996 in connection the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the mortar attack in Mohammadpur in 1975 are still being tried. These are some of the witness accounts from court on how the coup was carried out from the cantonment.

Honorary Lieutenant Syed Ahammad (discharged) of the First Bengal Lancer Regiment:

Major Syed Faruque Rahman was the second in command the Commanding Officer (CO) was Major Momin at the time. The regiment was formed by A,B, C and Head Quarters squadron.

Syed Ahmed described that a few day before August 14, 1975, their CO went on leave and Faruque was acting CO.

“I was station sick and resting at the government quarters on August 14. This quarter was beside the regiment,” he said in his statement as witness in the Mohammadpur mortar attack case.

After 2am, early August 15, a sepoy of the Lancer Unit came to his residence and said that Regimental Dafadar Major had asked him to go to Junior Commanding Officer’s (JCO) mess.

As Ahammad sent the sepoy to inform RDM to meet him, the RDM arrived asking for key to the armory saying that the Two Field Artillery is coming for a co-operation training.

Ahammad asked if they have permission from the Quartermaster Captain Delwar and asked to bring to him QMJ and the quarter guard commander. Within ten minutes they arrived and handed over a permission chit from Quartermaster Captain Delwar. Since Ahammad had the right papers he gave the chit to be deposited to the treasury and handed over the keys.

“Then I realised that the treasury has thousands of takas and rushed to the quarter guard to see if the money was safe and locked up properly,” he said.

From the guard commander he heard that forces had left with arms and ammunitions. Tanks and artillery were also sent out for night training.

“I saw Major Faruque and his brother-in-law, Commanding Officer of Artillery Col Khandaker Abdur

Rashid was speaking near the quarter guard, standing next to a Jeep that had a armored gun,” he said.

Seeing Ahammad, Maj Fauque called him asked him to keep an eye on the regiment. “Close down all the gates. Make sure no outsiders are allow to enter,” he ordered.

When both masterminds of Bangabandhu’s assassination steeped into the Jeep, Ahammad asked, “Sir, where are you going?”

Maj Faruque, sitting on the driver’s seat started the vehicle and replied: “We have to oust the autocrat government.”

Ahammad asked if Shafiullah knew the this and Faruque replied: “I do not think that is necessary.”

They sped out of the gates while Ahammad began locking it down.

Tanks rolled out

Squadron Dafadar Major (retd) Risaldar Abdul Alim: He was with the First Bengal Lancer’s B Squadron in August, 1975. Major Firoz was the commander. Former Lieutenant Md Kismat

Hashem took the charge of Squadron when Firoz was on leave.

Around 2pm on August 14, senior JCO Shamsul Haque arrived at the squadron office and informed that there will a night training that day.

After 9pm, 35 army men fall-in in front of the tank garage, as per orders. They cleaned 10 tanks as or-

dered by Kismat Hasem. When Maj Faruque arrived around 11:30pm in front of the garage and spoke to Lt Kismat, the squad was once again asked to fall-in.

“Tanks will have to go outside. Those of you who have tank driving training, raise your hands,” asked

Faruque. Six drivers responded and they were separated into another line.

Faruque then read out the names of those who were to be inside the tanks and the officers who will lead

the tanks. Forces took arms, ammunitions, grenades with them.

Around 3:30am, forces and officers board the tanks and they begin to roll out of the garage and park in a line near the signal gate.

After about 30 minutes, Maj Faruque himself boards a tank along with Lt Kismat, Maj Ahammad Shar-

ful Hossain who also get into tanks themselves and head out of the cantonment.

How the armed military leaves the cantonment

Lance Dafadar (retd) Bashir Ahammod: In his case statement he described how lower tier staffs of the

First Bengal Lancers were kept in dark and abused during the assassination mission of the father of the nation. He was under the Headquarters Squadron. The then Major Mohiuddin was the commander and Maj Faruque was acting CO.

He said that around 4pm on August 14, Havilder Major Abdul Hai called a fall-in of the sepoys of Headquarters Squadron and said there will be a night parade.

At 8pm they fall-in in front of Ration Store, where Major Faruque and Major Mohiuddin were present. Bashir did not take part but was there.

Bashir while returning to the quarter guard, saw Faruque going there too. Risaldar Moslehuddin greeted him.

They were also joined by Major Mohiuddun, Major Ahmmad Sharful Hossain, Lt Kismat Hashem, Lt Nazmul Hossain, Major Nurul Haque, Dafadar Marfat Ali Shah, LD Abul Hashem Mridha and others.

All of them, following a brief discussion moved to Maj Mohiuddun’s office.

“My room was just in front of Maj Mohiuddin’s office. I saw some Artillery officers there too,” he said. Bashir saw, Major Mohiuddinleave his office with two other officers.

Mohiuddin saw him and asked: “Whose is there?” When Bashir identified himself, Mohiuddin asked him to make tea and pakoras. “Send them to the parade stand too,” Mohiuddin ordered.

MDS Abdul Hai went there and said: “There will be a parade fall-in during tonights training.”

Around 3:30am, another parade was called and from there everyone went to take ammo from the armory.

Bashir took a G-3 rifle, 18 rounds of bullets and one magazine.

All soldiers were lined up in groups where Maj Mohiuddin them a short brief.

“You people board this Ford car,” Mohiuddin ordered Bashir’s group.

“We heard the tanks moving out one by one,” Bashir said.

Mohiuddin threatens the groups’ job

Bashir said that seeing the preparations the lower tier military members thought that the troop was training for ‘First Light Attack’ or ‘Counter Attack’.

Maj Mohiuddin briefed the group in the Ford car that they will go to Dhanmondi: “You will be given certain duties which if you do not execute you will be court marshaled.”

“Sir, please tell us what is happening,” asked a frightened Bashir.

Angered, Mohiuddun replied: “ You will retire soon how do you not know how the army law works?”

Captain Bazlul Huda and Maj Nur also were in the car along with Risaldar Syed Sarwar Hossain.

What happened outside Bangabandhu’s house

Bashir in the statement described what he had seen around Bangabandhu’s house on the morning of August 15, 1975.

He said, the car carrying Bashir and others reached the house around 4:45am. Bashir and Sarwar got off.

“Listen to the major’s order. He has asked you to restrict any person’s movement to the house from the

lake’s northern side. Ask police to surrender their arms there.”

Sarwar before going to the house asked Bashir to shot anyone trying to get into the house. Soon, the sound of gunshots and grenades started coming from the house. A machine gun fired and stopped.

After a while, Maj Bazlul Huda, Maj Mohiuddin and others went inside.

The sound of guns firing continued from with intervals.

He saw Maj Noor come outside and tell an army man that he shot Bangabandhu.

“When I asked Risalder Sarwar if Noor himself shot the president, Noor heard me speak,” said Bashir.

“What are you whispering about? I shot the president. Now, go,” Maj Noor said.

People gathered on the southern bank of Dhanmondi lake. Bazlul Huda noticed and told Sarwar, “Ask Bashir to tell these people to leave. Otherwise he will shoot them.”

“I shouted at those people to leave and they did,” he said.

Bashir noticed a tank coming from the west side of the house. Maj Faruque was on board.

“Maj Faruque and Huda asked Maj Noor something, that I did not hear. I went closer to the tank and peered into the house from the left. I saw some people standing in a queue,” Bashir said.

Bashir then asked Sarwar what happened inside and Sarwar said: “All are finished.”

From a distance, Bashir saw a little boy standing near the house’s gate. He was talking to an officer. Someone held his hand and him took inside. “Then I heard a single gun shot come from the house.”


AUGUST 15, 2019




Evidence ‘CIA involved in 1975 Bangla military coup’

Lawrence Lifschultz’s findings about assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are being published in Dhaka’s Daily Star and Prothom Alo newspapers.

An American journalist’s disclosure that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in the 1975 military coup and the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, has added a new dimension to the shameful episode that many here recall with dismay, disgust and hatred.

Lawrence Lifschultz, who was present here during the coup, as a correspondent for Hong Kong’s Far Eastern Economic Review, has investigated the events for the last 30 years. Dhaka’s Daily Star and Prothom Alo newspapers are serialising his findings.

“What (the) USA started during the Liberation War in 1971 with attempt to split the Awami League using Khandaker Moshtaque and his accomplices continued after the independence following a direct US instigation, resulting in the carnage on August 15, 1975,” the Daily Star writes in an introductory note to Lifschultz’s pieces.

An impression was given to the people that the coup and the murders were the result of a conspiracy by a few hostile leaders within the Awami League party who joined hands with disgruntled military officers. Some believed that there was a foreign hand involved. None was sure about the role of any country in particular.

“In India, Indira Gandhi, speaking of the tragedy of Mujib’s death, spoke of the sure hand of foreign involvement,” Lifschultz writes. “As usual, Mrs Gandhi was graphically lacking in details or specifics. However, the pro-Moscow Communist party of India (CPI) were more explicit: “the CIA,” said the CPI, “was behind the coup.”

“I dismissed this as propaganda based on no specific evidence.” Sheikh Hasina, Mujib’s one of the two surviving daughters, who became Bangladesh’s prime minister in 1996, also believed that her father fell victim to an international conspiracy. Lifschultz’s findings have confirmed their beliefs.

US Secretary of State

Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger also figures prominently in Lifschultz’s writings. In his opinion, along with Salvador Allende of Chile and Taiyoo of Vietnam, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in Kissinger’s political vendetta. Newly born Bangladesh could not save itself from Kissinger’s wrath.

The US government is yet to comment on CIA’s involvement in the 1975 coup and the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 15 others. A spokesman of the US Embassy in Dhaka said, “No comment,” to the UNB news agency after the first installment of the articles appeared on Monday. According to Lifschultz, Eugene Booster, then US Ambassador to Bangladesh repeatedly objected to the conspiracy and even issued written instruction in this regard, but then CIA Station Chief, Philip Cherry would not listen to him.

Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmad, a minister in Mujib’s Cabinet, played the leading role. Coup leaders made him the country’s president, but a counter-coup overthrew him three months later.

‘Execute case verdict’

Lifschultz’s writings are being published at a time when there is a nation-wide demand for the execution of the Mujib Murder Case verdict and bring home seven convicted killers who are absconding abroad.

After the High Court confirmed death sentences of 12 people and acquitted three others, the case is now pending in the appellate division of the Supreme Court.

The hearing is being delayed due to shortage of judges. Lawyers say if no new judges are appointed, the case would not come up for hearing before 2007. Of the 12 convicted killers, four are already in jail here.

Incidentally, the Opposition Awami League observed August 15 as the national mourning day, describing it as the ‘blackest day’ in Bangladesh’s national life. The nation paid rich tributes to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the 30th anniversary of his death on Monday, though governing BNP cancelled the government holiday and celebrated Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s 61st birthday.

Whether the CIA was involved or not in the 1975 coup is a debatable question. The writings have certainly evoked mixed reactions. The US Government’s admission or denial will not matter much to those who are aware of CIA’s global activities. They will probably believe what Lifschultz has said.

There is another section which will give a benefit of doubt. A third group that is opposed to Awami League and is critical of the Mujib era (1972-1975) will give a damn.

One thing is, however, clear that those managing statecraft-— present and future — will be more cautious in their dealings with the United States. Whether the government agrees with Lifschultz or not is not important. Its immediate task is to ensure speedy hearing of the case by appointing more judges. By doing so, it can prove its neutrality.

Or else, the proverb ‘justice delayed, justice denied’ may come true. At the same time, efforts should also be made to bring the convicted absconders to Bangladesh.


DECEMBER 11, 2011
Hassan Shahriar, DH News Service Dhaka




Over the last four decades, American journalist Lawrence Lifschultz, who reported on the military coup d’etat that killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and much of his family, has written a series of investigative stories that have provided new insight and understanding into the tragic events of August 15, 1975 and their aftermath. The former South Asia correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and writer for The Guardian once again opens a door to an unknown chapter of the 1975 coup d’etat

August 15, 1975 

Anniversary dates both joyful and tragic remind us of events and people we once knew.

Each year when a particular date approaches, we recall what happened on that day. Sometimes we do not dwell on the past. We remember briefly and then our thoughts move on.

There are other times when we pause. We may stop to consider past events. We take stock and assess.

The work of a writer is like that. To think about what happened long ago and reconsider. If possible to bring new facts to light.

August 15 is one of those dates in my life.

Once before I noted that August 15 illustrates the dictum of William Faulkner that the past is never dead, it is not even past.

Some years I just pause. Remember. And, then go on with other tasks and obligations while certain memories linger.

However, this year I decided to stop and open a new chapter of an old story which has importance not only for Bengalis but also for Americans like myself.

Murders took place in Dhaka on August 15, 1975.

There was a sequence of events that led up to those murders. Were only Bangladeshis involved? Or, were certain actors encouraged, even enabled?

In Bangladesh and in the United States there are people who oppose murder as a tool of international politics and believe that those who commit a crime like murder should be held to account.

Today we remember the violence of August 15, 1975.  However, even after all these years there are still gaps in our understanding of the role of certain individuals in the planning and execution of the killing that took place on August 15 in Dhaka and on November 3 at the Dhaka Central Jail.

We know a good deal. Yet, new information is now in our possession. Perhaps, it will provide additional insight and broaden our understanding of the past.

This family portrait of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with his wife and children hangs on a wall inside the Bangabandhu Museum on Dhanmondi 32. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana are the only ones who survived August 15, 1975. (Dhaka Tribune could not verify the identity of the photographer)

A Dhaka meeting precedes the coup d’etat

Some time ago on a brief trip to Dhaka I decided to call a man who I had been thinking about for more than thirty years. As luck would have it we were both still alive.

The last time I saw this individual — more than three decades previously — he sat down beside me and quietly told me there was something important he needed to tell me. Although at that point he had only said one sentence, he was very serious.

We knew each other. Not well. However, I knew about an act of great courage on his part. I respected him for the risk he had taken to save another man’s life.

I was at his home that evening in Dhaka. He is a businessman. He had invited me to a gathering. It was very crowded and thus impossible to have a private conversation. He suggested that I should return the next evening. I told him I would show up at the agreed time the following day.

However, the next day I was placed under arrest and I was unable to keep the appointment. I was present in Dhaka to report on Colonel Abu Taher’s secret trial at Dhaka Central Jail. One could hardly call it a trial. It was a mechanism by which General Zia had decided to execute his old friend, Abu Taher, who had once saved Zia’s life.

I was filing reports for the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Guardian, and the BBC. In Dhaka and throughout Bangladesh there was a total press blackout on Taher’s trial. The first news of the trial had come through on the BBC’s Bengali language service based on my reporting.

I had found a way to get my reports to the Reuters office in Bangkok which forwarded them on to my respective editors in Hong Kong and London. All transmissions of my stories from the Dhaka telex office had been blocked for over a week. I was detained for three days and then deported to Bangkok. Censorship was now complete, domestically and internationally.

I never made it to my appointment to hear what this gentleman had wanted to tell me. More than thirty years later, I was briefly visiting Dhaka and I decided to call this person and apologize for missing our meeting. It seemed the least I could do.

Yet, I was also very interested in finding what he had wanted to tell me all those years ago. I reached him at his office and he insisted I come over immediately.

When I arrived, he greeted me warmly. He reprimanded me for not showing up that evening in July 1976. He asked: “Did you have to get yourself arrested on that particular night? I was waiting for you.”

Ultimately, he forgave me for missing the meeting. Tea was served. He arranged for someone he trusted to join us. I asked him if he remembered having said to me that he had something important to tell me. “I remember as if it were yesterday,” he said. He then became quite serious.

In the next hour he told an important story. Over the next several days we would go over the details several times while having dinner or lunch at his residence. His wife was a witness. She confirmed her husband’s account while adding specific additional details that she recalled. This is what he had to tell me.

The time when these events took place happened in the weeks immediately preceding the August 15 coup when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family were murdered.

This gentleman had many friends among the diplomatic community in Dhaka. These friendships and relationships were in the nature of the businesses he owned and ran.  He told me he had a friend at the American Embassy, a political officer, named Philip Cherry.

He described the American as a personable and charming individual who seemed to have a great love for Bangladesh. Sometimes they went for drives together to visit factories that this individual owned. He remembers Phil Cherry saying how Bangladesh was such a beautiful country.

Towards the end of July or early August in 1975, Philip Cherry called this gentleman and asked him if the businessman could organize a dinner at his home. The businessman said he would be glad to do so. Did Philip Cherry want some particular guests to be invited?

Cherry confirmed to the prospective host that he only wanted one guest to be invited. Naturally, the guest would also bring his wife. That guest was General Ziaur Rahman. The host knew Zia and he said he would be glad to arrange the dinner. Cherry suggested specific dates.

The dinner was arranged. General Zia arrived with his wife Khaleda. Phil Cherry arrived with his wife. The only other participants in the dinner were the host and his wife. The host says the dinner took place a week before the coup. His wife thinks it was probably more like ten days. It became clear as soon as both men arrived that they had things to talk about on their own.

General Zia and Philip Cherry went into the garden and spent nearly an hour talking with each other before dinner was served. Zia and Cherry seemed to know each other.  After dinner they again went into the garden to continue their discussion. All seemed innocent enough at the time. However, after the coup, as one family member put it, the host and his family felt they had been “used.”

The day after the coup the host was so upset that he drove to Philip Cherry’s house in Gulshan and a dramatic scene ensued. The host was angry and in tears. He kept demanding how this could have happened. He described Mujib’s wife as being “like his own mother.” They killed her. Why? The host was furious and heart-broken that the entire family that were in Dhaka had been murdered. He kept repeating: “How could this have happened?”

Cherry’s wife tried to calm him down and served him tea. Cherry said to him: “I know you were very close to the family.” After expressing his grief and his anger the businessman got into his car and left.

He never saw Cherry again after that day. The family are politically sophisticated. They understand that the dinner they hosted and the Zia-Cherry meeting was not for social purposes. They clearly understand what Zia’s role was in the coup in keeping the army from turning on Major Farooq and Major Rashid as they undertook targeted murders in the pre-dawn hours of August 15.

Like many people they understood that Zia had played a critical role in the coup. Had General Zia opposed the coup d’etat it could never have happened. The evidence increasingly points to the fact that Zia was one of the principal architects of the coup and played a much more significant role than Khondaker Mustaque Ahmed.

One evening on a subsequent visit to Dhaka when I went over the Cherry-Zia meeting that took place at their house, I asked my businessman acquaintance if he knew that Philip Cherry was the CIA station chief in Dhaka at the time of the meeting with General Zia. He looked stunned, saying he thought Cherry was just a political officer at the US embassy.

That Cherry was indeed the CIA station chief is beyond question. As I revealed in an earlier article I wrote on the August 15 killings, my knowledge of this piece of information comes directly from an unimpeachable source: the US ambassador to Bangladesh at the time, Davis Eugene Boster.

The personal desk of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Bangabandhu Museum in Dhanmondi 32  Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka TribuneOn whose authority?

What we now understand is that approximately a week before the coup d’etat which killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a meeting took place between the deputy chief of army staff of the Bangladesh army and the American CIA station chief.

This is a fact of utmost significance. It has particular meaning in that the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Davis Eugene Boster, had six months earlier issued precise instructions to all US embassy personnel to break off any contact with any official or person engaged in an attempt to overthrow the Mujib government.

A series of meetings took place between November 1974 and January 1975 between officials at the US embassy in Dhaka and individuals hoping to secure American backing. We will be examining these contacts in greater detail in a future article.

A week or ten days before the coup, Philip Cherry and General Ziaur Rahman were meeting in a private residence in Dhaka. Cherry could not have held this meeting or continued contacts with actors planning to stage a coup unless he had authorization. Since he had instructions from Ambassador Boster not to engage in any such contacts, the orders must have come from elsewhere. The CIA station chief would have been operating theoretically on orders from Washington or Langley.

The British writer Christopher Hitchens devoted a chapter to Bangladesh in his book entitled The Trial of Henry Kissinger. It was Hitchens’ view that in August 1975 after Nixon’s demise there was only one “center” of power capable of providing authorization to support and encourage a coup d’etat in Dhaka to bring down Mujib. As Hitchens has written in his chapter on Bangladesh:

“Ambassador Boster became convinced that his CIA station was operating a back channel without his knowledge. Such an operation would have been meaningless, and pointlessly risky, if it did not extend homeward to Washington where, as is now notorious the threads of the Forty Committee and the National Security Council, were very closely held in one fist.” (The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. London: Verso, 2001, p 52.)

The “fist” that held the threads, in Hitchens view, belonged to Henry Kissinger.

The import of the meeting that took place between Philip Cherry and General Ziaur Rahman raises a significant issue of who was instructing Cherry in the American government. Were his actions authorized by the Forty Committee or was Cherry receiving instructions directly from Henry Kissinger’s team at the State Department. These are issues that will be explored in a forthcoming article.

AUGUST 14TH, 2018
Lawrence Lifschultz was South Asia Correspondent of the Far Eastrern Economic Review. He has also written for The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, The Nation (New York), Economic & Political Weekly(Mumbai) and the BBC, in addition to numerous other publications. He is the author/editor of Hiroshima’s Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History & the Smithsonian Controversy, Why Bosnia? Writings on the Balkan Wars(with Rabia Ali) and Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution. He can be reached at: OpenDoor.Lifschultz@gmail.com.




The assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most members of his family on Aug 15, 1975 failed to make the headline in the Daily Ittefaq on the following day.

It was the same for the other media.

Ittefaq, the best-selling Bangla newspaper of the day, prioritised the army takeover over the killings in its Aug 16 edition.

Its six-column lead headline screamed: “Military takes power under Khandakar Mushtaque’s leadership”.

And the lead read, “The Bangladesh armed forces led by President Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed took over the power in greater interests by toppling former President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman yesterday morning.”

“During the takeover, former President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed in his home,” it went on.

Next to the lead, there was a two-column editorial headlined “Historic New Journey”.

Nurul Islam Patwary was editor of the newspaper at the time. Asafuddowla Reza was the news editor.

Daily Ittefaq, edited by Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia, was known to be a mouthpiece of the Awami League before independence.

The other headlines on the first page of that day’s edition of the newspaper included “Vice president, 10 ministers and 6 state ministers take oath”, “Return of up to Tk 8,000 of invalid currency”, “Takeover in the greater interest of nation”, “US to continue normal diplomatic operations”, “People heave a sigh of relief”, “Felicitations by several quarters”, “Status of foreign embassies to remain unaffected”, “BA Siddique becomes Red Cross Chairman” etc.

After Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League or BKSAL was founded through the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in January, 1975, Ittefaq and three other newspapers were being published nationally at the time.

The headline of the eight-column lead story of Dainik Bangla, edited by Ehtesham Haider Choudhury, was: “Khandaker Mushtaque new President”, with a shoulder: “Sheikh Mujib assassinated: Martial law and curfew declared: Armed forces express loyalty”.

The headline of its editorial on the front page was “A Historic Step”.

The top daily also reported on the front page: “No compromise with corruption”, “Alliance-free policy will be followed: President”, “10 ministers and 6 state ministers take oath”, “US to continue diplomatic operations with new govt”, “Up to Tk 8,000 of invalid Tk 100 currencies will be refunded”, “Pakistan decides to give recognition”.

Like Ittefaq, Dainik Bangla also published Khandaker Mushtaque’s photo along with the lead story.

The Bangladesh Times’ eight-column lead story read: “Mushtaque Assumes Presidency”. The shoulder of the headline was: “Martial Law proclaimed in the country: Mujib killed”.

In its op-ed section – ‘Our Comments’ – a write-up was headlined: “On the Threshold of the New Era”.

The other headlines on the front page of the newspaper edited by Abdul Ghani Hazari included: “People thank Armed Forces”, “Mujib’s picture’s removed”, “US ready for normal ties”, “Vice-President, ten Ministers, six State Ministers sworn in”, “Values have to be rehabilitated”, “Help make Bangladesh a prosperous country”.

Photo of Mushtaque taking oath was published with the lead story.

The most-circulated English newspaper The Bangladesh Observer’s main headline was “Mushtaque becomes President”.

The shoulder read: “Armed Forces take over: Martial Law proclaimed: Curfew imposed”, while the kicker was: “Mujib killed: Situation remains calm”.

The eight-column story also contained a photo of Mushtaque being sworn in.

The editorial was headlined “Historical Necessity”, flanked by the reports with headlines: “Special prayers” and “Mushtaque calls for co-operation”.

The other stories were “People hail take-over”, Pakistan accords recognition”, “Inviolability of foreign missions assured”, “Justice must be established: President/Work hard to improve condition quickly”, US ready to conduct normal diplomatic business”, Curfew relaxed for Juma prayers”.


AUGUST 15, 2018




B. Z. Khasru, an award-winning journalist, is editor of The Capital Express in New York. His first book, “Myths and Facts, Bangladesh Liberation War, How India, U.S., China and the USSR Shaped the Outcome” was a bestseller in 2010. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston.

U.S. officials believed that given New Delhi’s intelligence resources, the “general coup plotting over the last eight months was certainly known to” the Indian government. Samar Sen, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh when the new nation’s founding president was assassinated, disputed this notion. India’s foreign office, however, admitted having some vague knowledge of the August 1975 putsch in which President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members.

Near the end of 1974, India started worrying that Bangladesh’s economic difficulty could lead to a gradual breakdown of political and administrative systems.

Sen explained that India lacked foreknowledge of the coup because it had no intelligence agents in Bangladesh. India had stopped spying in Bangladesh at Mujib’s request. He wanted them out because RAW agents were monitoring his followers and keeping in touch with opposition politicians, at the same time.

Near the end of 1974, India started worrying that Bangladesh’s economic difficulty could lead to a gradual breakdown of political and administrative systems. Indian officials could not identify an agent for change. They did not think Mujib faced serious threat from his party or the opposition. They also dismissed the military as a threat because it was too divided. Extremist groups were too small and isolated.

On top of all this, the Bengalis were known for their proverbial ability to absorb great economic hardship. Thus, they were left with an inchoate concern that somehow things might begin to fall apart. India was directly concerned with two possible byproducts of turmoil in Bangladesh.

First, anarchy in Bangladesh might ultimately throw up an anti-Indian regime or invite involvement of others. Second, the ten million Hindus in Bangladesh might be affected disproportionately. The Hindus would be squeezed hard and even physically threatened, forcing them flee to India as they did in 1971. Such an outcome would severely strain both Indo-Bangla relations as well as Hindu-Muslim relations in India.

However, Indian officials as a whole were not yet overly concerned about the either situation. Officials willing to speculate predicted India would intervene at Mujib’s request to save him from a real threat. U.S. diplomats in New Delhi agreed with this assessment.

During Mujib’s rule, according to the U.S. assessment, Indian policies in Bangladesh did not conflict much with those of the United States. “India has come to appreciate our stance of non-interference in subcontinental bilateral problems and the low profile we maintain in Bangladesh.”

India was not concerned about Bangladesh having diplomatic relations with Pakistan and China. In fact, it had recommended this to Mujib. Its concern was that the new government would change its policy toward Islamic extremism.

Things were, however, entirely different a year later. On 7 October 1975, Y.B. Chavan, India’s external affairs minister, expressed concern about the Bangladesh events when he met U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Washington.

Mujib’s killing shocked India

“India was shocked by the killing of Mujib and his family, although it was treating this as an internal matter,” he said. “The new government had assured India it was not changing its policy, but Delhi was concerned about the potential strength of ‘extreme Islamic’ elements and also revolutionary left Communists.”

India was not concerned about Bangladesh having diplomatic relations with Pakistan and China. In fact, it had recommended this to Mujib. Its concern was that the new government would change its policy toward Islamic extremism. This would lead to trouble for the Hindu minority. Delhi also worried that China would try to stir up trouble with help of the pro-Chinese Communist groups in Bangladesh.

Kissinger, on his part, assured that Chavan: “We saw a requirement for good relations between Bangladesh and India. We had no interest in trying to weave Bangladesh into some complicated power game. Bangladesh should concentrate on economic development. What influence we have there, we will use to encourage good relations with India.”

Chavan was among those in Gandhi’s cabinet advocating a more cautious approach toward East Pakistan during the Bangladesh war. His position created lingering doubts about his goodwill toward Bangladesh. He reiterated that Indian concerns were that the radical groups were already active in Bangladesh and if the Pakistanis and the Chinese began meddling, there could be a new regional problem.

Kissinger noted that the Chinese had been down on Bangladesh in the past. He reiterated that the United States favored good relations between Bangladesh and India. Kissinger then asked whether India had known about the plot against Mujib in advance.

In India, the public in general widely believed the United States was involved in Mujib’s murder.

Following Chavan’s trip, the State Department sent a note to the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, summing his discussions.

“In response to the secretary’s query, Chavan said the Indians had no foreknowledge of the recent coup in Dacca,” the memo said. “He also agreed that the problem in Bangladesh for India was a potential one and that at present, relations with the new government were good.”

At the end of the first week after Mujib, Bangladesh confronted much uncertainty. Fear of India was in the air. Mujib’s successor, Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, found himself in a position that required a great deal of balancing act.

In India, the public in general widely believed the United States was involved in Mujib’s murder. On 19 August 1975, Ananda Bazar Patrika published a story, quoting the West Bengal Congress Party youth movement chief, Priyoranjan Das Munshi. He said the assassination once again proved how active the CIA and China were in the subcontinent. Mujib’s assassination sparked a flurry of protests rallies in India. The All-India Peace and Solidarity Organization held a meeting in New Delhi. Communist MP Bhupesh Gupta accused the CIA of backing the Mujib killers. Mujib’s death, he fumed, was part of a rightist conspiracy supported by U.S. imperialism. Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of the CPI front World Peace Council, claimed he had learned when he visited Dhaka in April 1975 that several CIA agents worked in Bangladesh as volunteers in aid-giving societies. He had mentioned this to Mujib, who said he knew it.

Indians blame CIA

These allegations enraged America. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was livid by an article in the Congress Party newspaper Jugantar, implicating Davis Boster, U.S. ambassador in Dhaka, in the coup. The public affairs officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata protested to Jugantar editor. The editor claimed he was unaware of the article or how it got in the paper.

The Chinese were trying to isolate India. There was already Hindu repression before the coup; India was now very concerned over the possibility of increased repression and the refugee migration that might cause.

The editor, D.R. Bose, explained that he had left his office early in the evening on 17 November – the day before the article appeared. The story was brought to Jugantar by an Indian who had just returned from Dhaka. He was not a correspondent. But the editor did not identify him. Subeditor Deb Kumar Gosh had the story prepared and approved by the censor about midnight.

The editor tried to pacify the irate American official, saying he had a “stack of material” on America and Bangladesh, but would not “print anything without checking with” the consulate. “In particular, he said, he had a story about large-scale demonstrations in front of the American embassy in Dacca calling for Ambassador Boster’s withdrawal.”  He apologized and agreed to “run anything you want” in Jugantar.

The embassy decided to take up the editor on his offer. It decided to ask Bose to print a rejoinder on the front page as was the article along following lines: An article carried in the 18 November issue of this paper concerning the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh was unauthorized for publication and did not represent Jugantar’s views. Jugantar regretted and disavowed any implication of improper activities on the part of the American ambassador to Bangladesh.

The State Department supported the consulate’s efforts to obtain retraction from Jugantar. It told the embassy to express America’s displeasure at a high level in New Delhi. The public affairs officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata spoke to Bose in the morning of 19 November 1975. Bose agreed to run a retraction, but in the body of an editorial or news comment on the Bangladesh situation in the next few days.

The same, the deputy chief of mission in New Delhi protested newspaper articles blaming the CIA for the coup when he met J.S. Teja, joint secretary for Americas at the foreign office. “We would take the strongest exception to continued allegations in the Indian press of the U.S. government involvement in the Bangladesh coup. This was a slanderous and totally false accusation.” Teja first attempted to brush off the press reports as matters the government could not control. He later agreed to inform authorities.

India feared Hindu exodus

Following the coup in Bangladesh, India feared the danger of Hindu repression and outside meddling in Bangladesh. There was deep concern in New Delhi that the change was destabilizing. The Chinese were trying to isolate India. There was already Hindu repression before the coup; India was now very concerned over the possibility of increased repression and the refugee migration that might cause.

To ease India’s fear, Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, who succeeded Mujib as president after the coup, was making every attempt to be evenhanded and take Indian sensitivities into consideration. India demanded that the Moshtaque government must “disassociate itself from the murderers of women and children.”  India made it clear it would not accept 10 million Hindu refugees. Indian public opinion would be outraged. “We would turn them back at the border,” Teja said.

…it needed mainly trucks and jeeps as well as light and medium artillery. They ruled out China and Pakistan as a source of supply because both were considered “politically volatile.”

India’s second problem was Bangladesh’s recognition by Saudi Arab, Pakistan and China. These countries did not recognize Bangladesh in the past. So, their interest was in influencing the Moshtaque government, not in establishing friendly relations. India feared Pakistan would play on the Muslim theme.

India was convinced that the Pakistanis and the Saudis were pressuring Bangladesh to become an Islamic state. Because of its economic needs, Bangladesh might do this. Such a move would be very shortsighted, because in the long run India could help Bangladesh more than those countries. India hoped that U.S. aid would enable Bangladesh to resist pressures of those who sought to make Bangladesh an Islamic state.

India, for its part, was doing everything to maintain good relations with Bangladesh. Economic and military training assistance were being continued at their pre-coup levels. But New Delhi did not think that Bangladesh was sufficiently concerned about keeping good relations with India. Attacks on India in the Bangladesh press and on the government radio to supported this contention. India saw certain pro-Pakistani appointments within Bangladesh as evidence of an anti-Indian attitude.

Bangladesh diplomats in New Delhi reported a softer tone in India and started reciprocating. On 24 October 1975, Bangladesh Counselor Ataul Karim, who was always low key in his discussions, asserted there were no problems in Indo-Bangla relations. But the first secretary for political affairs, Ziaus Shams Chowdhury, indicated a great anxiety about possible Indian reactions to Bangladesh establishing diplomatic ties with Pakistan and China. Chowdhury took exception to the attacks on Bangladesh in the Indian Communist press and blamed the Indian government for it. He accused India of supporting anti-regime groups within Bangladesh without giving details.

The same day, Brigadier M.A. Manzur, the Bangladesh military adviser, and Major General H.M. Ershad, deputy chief of staff of the Bangladesh army, who was then attending the Indian National Defense College, reported that the two sides had adopted a “wait-and-see” policy. They indicated that an anti-Indian – and a pro-Pakistani and pro-Chinese – position might give rise to an Indian intervention in Bangladesh. Although it would be foolhardy for India to do this, Manzur said it was a possibility that could not be excluded.

The Indians had expressed their strong desire for continued good relations with Bangladesh. Moshtaque emphasized that America should not equate India and Bangladesh.

As for the Bangladesh army’s material needs, they revealed that the army already had many Chinese small arms. It needed mainly trucks and jeeps as well as light and medium artillery. They ruled out China and Pakistan as a source of supply because both were considered “politically volatile.” Yugoslavia had been considered a possible source. But this also had been dropped. Both dismissed America as a source. They would only say that the equipment would have to come from unnamed third countries.

“We continue to believe that there are circumstances under which India would intervene – covertly and ultimately overtly, if necessary – in order to protect its interests in Bangladesh and that these circumstances would include massive migration of Hindus or the emergence of a government which appeared to be pro-Chinese and pro-Pakistani,” the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi commented. “As indicated above, and in other recent reporting, the government of India does not now see problems which cause it serious concern; it is only worrying about potential problems. Finally, we would assume that the government of India is now developing and maintaining assets within Bangladesh for the purpose of influencing the situation should the feared problems arise.”

On 29 October, U.S. ambassador in Bangladesh, David Boster, told Moshtaque that Kissinger and his aides had discussed Indo-Bangla relations with Chavan during his recent visit to Washington. The Indians had expressed their strong desire for continued good relations with Bangladesh. Moshtaque emphasized that America should not equate India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh was a small country that only wanted to live in peace and couldn’t harm anyone, even if it wanted to.


MAY 01, 2016
Courtesy: This article is based on B.Z. Khasru’s book, The Bangladesh Military Coup and the CIA Link.

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Lamartine — that mediocre poet but cunning politician in France during the revolutions of 1848 — once remarked that history is a trick that we, the living, play upon the dead. One part of the implied argument in this extraordinary book, Bangabandhu, Epitome of a Nation, is to correct some of those tricks, and mend some of the many contrived passages and cunning corridors that have delivered so many unkind cuts to the father of the young nation of Bangladesh. It is a noble and largely successful effort, one might readily admit.

After the brutal murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members on the black morning of August 15, 1975, historical mendacity reached a new low in Bangladesh. Volumes were written to delete the contributions of Bangabandhu and his fellow fighters and elevate the previously unknown figures to the status of the makers of our Liberation Movement. At the end it proved futile. Such a large truth as the liberation of millions of people cannot be obliterated by hack writers of history no matter how numerous they happen to be. It does, however, show that Voltaire was at least sadly and partially correct when he defined history as nothing but a record of the crimes and misfortunes of mankind. Yet, beyond the crimes and misfortunes in the sad golden land of Bangladesh there are always the people and some leaders of integrity and courage like Bangabandhu. This can never be erased.

At the very outset it is imperative to remind the potential reader of this timely book that the integral and larger purpose of this project is ultimately the heartfelt plea for Bangladesh historiography’s self-determination that will lead to a genuine history of its own self-determination. It is a project of self-emancipation of Bangladeshis. Our still “colonialist knowledge” is collusive through and through in every field from philology to political economy. Certainly, in my own field — the mainstream political economy echoes songs of praise for the top rulers of the system while ideological justifications, global inequality and unjust social formations obliterate any attempts at an objective inquiry into the real causes of wealth and poverty in our world.

It was Bangabandhu’s and his fellow fighters’ sincere commitment to genuine development that led to his and his most important comrades’ violent murder carried out by a group of plotters in the armed forces supported by a group of unscrupulous politicians who opposed Bangabandhu’s dreams and programs for a just society. The book under review describes graphically Bangabandhu’s lifelong struggle for and with the suffering masses in the then East Pakistan. Many stirring photos and touching vignettes illustrate not just his political leadership but also the suffering of his nearest and dearest- his wife and children. For those of us who were lucky to know him personally, the warm sympathetic Sk. Mujib emerges as he was in life everyday with family and friends beyond the truly larger-than-life founder of a nation. I want to argue in light of the book under review that he was also the harbinger of a new type of tolerant modernity and secularism open to all religions and indigenous cultures as well as internationalism. Although Bangabandhu spent much of his adult life in turbulent politics, he thought carefully about modernity and its problems from people’s perspective all his life. His unfinished autobiography shows this clearly. The present book does this also with graceful competence. Indeed, he was the harbinger of a new type of modernity quite different from those of the so- called 19th century Bengal Renaissance.

In particular, the sections entitled “The Quintessential Bengali” and “He belonged to all Bangladeshis” show the great leader in this light. “The Statesman in Bangabandhu” and several other sections on his politics show him as both a nationalist and internationalist. As a person who was privileged to see his culturally engaged side on several occasions, the present reviewer can attest that Bangabandhu was deeply engaged in the defense of Bangalee culture and values but also profoundly respectful of all cultures of the world- particularly those of the oppressed indigenous peoples and other minorities. In this he was a valiant defender of universal human rights.

Although the main heroic character in the book is Bangabandhu and rightly so, there were many other heroic characters such as Tajuddin Ahmed who are also mentioned. Sadly, on 15 August, 1975 the people who were around Bangabandhu in the corridors of power, were not of the same caliber as Tajuddin and people like him. Many were co-conspirators with the cabal in the armed forces, and none would come to his aid on that black morning except one loyal man. He is indeed another heroic Bangladeshi who gave his life in the hour of need of Bangabandhu and the country. His name is Colonel Jamil. He could not save Bangabandhu or his own self, but his name will be forever written in golden letters as a loyal servant of our new nation.

All in all, the book is a wonderful addition to the growing archive of books on Bangabandhu. It is exceptional in its wide and compact coverage. It even has a section of Bangabandhu as a writer. The photographs themselves are to be treasured with several quite rare reproductions. The cover and binding are exceptional given the weakness of our publishing industry in these areas of physical production. Finally, the portrait by the great Bangladeshi painter Shahabuddin enhances the visual appeal tremendously. This book deserves to belong to the bookshelf and table of every person with interest in Bangabandhu and Bangladesh.


AUGUST 09, 2019
Haider A. Khan is John Evans Professor of Economics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

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A leader who was always one with the people

For our generation who witnessed the birth of Bangladesh, it is a daunting task to express in words the unique role played by the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman in the creation of the new state. It is even more challenging to analyze the political ideas underpinning his life’s work. Whenever I think of Bangabandhu I first remember those exciting and memorable days of March 1971.

I consider myself to be very lucky that I was able to witness the events of March 1971 and Bangabandhu’s role in creating history. Very few people are fortunate enough to see the making of history. I witnessed the transformation of our movement for autonomy into our struggle for independence. I witnessed how the main actor of this historic transformation, Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, realized an impossible dream. There have been leaders in other countries who led their nations. But few could create history. Bangabandhu was one such rare grand actor of history.

It is unfortunate that even after 48 years of our independence and 43 years after his assassination there is no well-researched comprehensive biography of Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman. Fortunately two recent books, based on his personal diaries, have been published which can serve as original source that help us understand his ideals and political philosophy.

The first book, The Unfinished Memoirs, published in 2012, throws light on his childhood, and early political life. Though The Unfinished Memoirs does not include events after the late 1950s it still illuminates his political thoughts very clearly.

The second book, Karagarer Rojnamcha (prison diaries) which was published in 2017, is based on his diaries when he was in prison after he launched the six point movement in 1966. Here again his political thoughts are made very clear. He discusses at length the different methods of suppression of people’s movements pursued by an autocratic state. He highlights the importance of fundamental civil and political rights, particularly the need for ensuring freedom of expressions for sustaining democracy.

In this article I quote extensively from his writings so that we can hear his own voice. To understand his political philosophy we should always keep in mind that Bangabandhu spent most of his life as a political player outside state power. He struggled against colonial and undemocratic state power, first against the British and later against the Pakistan state to establish the economic, political, and cultural rights of the Bengalees.

He exercised state power only for a limited period of time — barely three and a half years after independence. His political discourse, as illustrated in these two books, is that of a leader fighting authoritarian state power, not that of a leader who was using state power to govern a country.

One of the remarkable features of his political life was his transformation from an ordinary rank and file worker of a political party to an unparalleled leader of millions of people. Bangabandhu possessed outstanding organizational capacity; at the same time he was a great orator. Generally we do not find such a combination of qualities in one leader.

In his Unfinished MemoirsBangabandhu notes that he was more interested in party organizational work than in discussing theoretical and ideological issues. Though he was not a political theoretician, Bangabandhu had a few specific political ideals and goals and he worked consistently to achieve them. His values are best captured in three sentences which Bangabandhu penned on May 3, 1973. He writes:

“As a man, what concerns mankind concerns me. As a Bengalee, I am deeply involved in all that concerns Bengalees. This abiding involvement is born of and nourished by love, enduring love, which gives meaning to my politics and to my very being.”

The above quote makes it clear that Bangabandhu identified himself both as a human being and as a Bengalee.

This self-identification helps us explore the main features of his political philosophy, such as nationalism, secularism, socialism, and people-orientation.


Independence, liberation, and democracy

From the beginning of his political life, Bangabandhu was proud of his Bengali national identity. He was involved in the Pakistan movement but he believed that Pakistan should be established on the basis of the Lahore Resolution which envisaged two Muslim majority independent sovereign states.

He perceived the nationalist movement not simply as a struggle to gain independence from the rule of an external colonial power but also as a struggle for the economic and political emancipation of the down-trodden masses from various forms of oppression.

He joined the Pakistan movement in the hope that poor Muslim peasants will be liberated from the exploitation of the landlord classes. He had always viewed the Bengali nationalist movement as a movement for the achievement of democracy as well as liberation of the oppressed people. Thus on March 7, 1971 he called upon the people to launch simultaneously the struggle for independence and liberation.

Prior to the establishment of Pakistan, when as a student in Kolkata, Bangabandhu joined the Muslim League. He belonged to the Shaheed Suhrawardy and Abul Hashem faction of the party which was known as the progressives group. In his Unfinished Memoirshe writes:

“Under Mr Suhrawardy’s leadership we wanted to make the Muslim League the party of the people and make it represent middle-class Bengali aspirations. Upto that time Muslim League had not become an organization that was rooted in the people. It used to serve the interests of landlords, moneyed men, and Nawabs and Khan Bahadurs.”

After the creation of Pakistan, Bangabandhu returned to Dhaka and became involved in various progressive movements and organizations which championed the linguistic, cultural, and economic rights of the Bengalis. In 1948 he was imprisoned for participating in the movement demanding recognition of Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan.

He was also involved in other social and political protest movements, such as the movement of poor peasants against prohibiting inter-district trade in rice known as the “cordon” system. He supported the movement of the fourth class employees of Dhaka university and was again imprisoned in 1949.

Within a relatively short period after the establishment of Pakistan he became convinced about the need for establishing an opposition political party not only for championing the rights of the Bengalis but also to challenge the authoritarian rule of the Muslim League. In his Unfinished Memoirs he explained the rationale for the establishment of the Awami League in the following way:

“There is no point in pursuing the Muslim League any longer. This party has now become the establishment. They can no longer be called a party of the people … if we did not form an organization that could take on the role of the opposition the country would turn into a dictatorship.”

In 1949, the Awami Muslim League (AML) was founded and Bangabandhu was elected the joint secretary of the party though he was still in prison. In 1953 he became the general secretary of the party. The demand for self-rule gained increasing popular support in East Bengal from the mid-1950s. In 1955 Bangabandhu became a member of the Pakistan National Assembly (NA). In one of his speeches in the NA we already find a strong articulation of various demands of the Bengali nationalists and his strong sense of Bengali identity. He said:

“They want to place the word ‘East Pakistan’ instead of ‘East Bengal.’ We have demanded so many times that you should use Bengal instead of Pakistan. The word Bengal has a history, has a tradition of its own. You can change it only after people have been consulted. If you want to change it then we have to go back to Bengal and ask them whether they accept it … what about the state language Bengali? What about joint electorate? What about autonomy? … I appeal to my friends on that side to allow the people to give their verdict in any way, in the form of referendum or in the form of plebiscite.”

In the council session of the party in 1955 the Awami League (AL) dropped the word “Muslim” from its name and Bangabandhu again became the general secretary of the party. In February 1966, Bangabandhu presented his historic six points demand which put forward a very radical notion of provincial autonomy leaving only limited powers in the hands of the central government.

In March of that year he became the president of the AL and began a country-wide campaign to popularize the six points which soon became the sole agenda of the party. Six points captured the aspirations of the nation and it was billed as the charter for the liberation of the Bengalis. Following the launch of the six points, Bangabandhu was again imprisoned and he was charged with treason by the Pakistan government in the Agartala conspiracy case.

In 1969, Ayub fell from power in the face of massive students’ movement. Bangabandhu was released from prison and the students conferred on him the title of Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal). During the 1970 election campaign Bangabandhu started using nationalist slogans such as “Bangladesh” and “Joy Bangla.”

Thus, within a relatively short span of four years, between 1966 to 1970, Bangabandhu was able to unite the whole Bengali nation behind his demand for liberation and independence. I do not think any other nationalist leader had been so successful in mobilizing such a huge number of people within such a short period of time.

It is noteworthy that though throughout his life Bangabandhu was involved in movement politics and talked about people’s emancipation from exploitation and oppression, he believed in peaceful non-violent political movements. From 1947 till 1970 the Bengali nationalist movement became stronger day-by-day under his leadership but he stayed within the bounds of democratic politics.

Whenever Pakistani rulers gave opportunities for election he participated in them, though the elections were often not free and fair and attempts were made to foil the election results. In Karagarer Rojnamchahe points out repeatedly that by limiting the democratic space an autocratic regime ultimately leads the country towards terrorist politics. He writes:

“Newspapers arrived. I was alarmed that they [the Pakistani government] are trying to shut down democratic politics … If anybody criticizes the government there will be cases against them under the proposed secret act … I myself am facing five cases under article 124, section 7 (3) for making public speeches … My fear is they are leading Pakistan toward terrorist politics. We do not believe in that politics. But those of us who want to do good for the people through democratic politics, our space is shrinking.”


Non-communalism and equal rights for all citizens

Though he was a Bengali nationalist, Bangabandhu never tried to create division and hatred between different identity groups. Many nationalist politicians use provocative languages and symbols that encourage violence between different groups. These days we are witnessing the rise of such nationalist leaders even in Western democratic countries who are trying to instigate intolerance and violence towards minority groups. But Bangabandhu’s nationalist politics was different. He believed in co-existence and mutual tolerance of different identity groups and talked about equal rights of all citizens. He always stood against communal violence.

Though he was involved in the Pakistan movement he believed that in India, Muslims and in Pakistan, Hindus should enjoy equal rights as citizens and live together in peace and harmony. He talked about equal rights of all groups to practice their respective religions.

He witnessed the communal riots in Kolkata on August 16, 1947. He points out that Suhrawardy asked his supporters to observe the day in a peaceful way so that no blame could fall on the Suhrawardy government. But unfortunately, communal riots did break out in Kolkata and later spread to Noakhali. Bangabandhu saved both Muslims and Hindus from acts of communal violence in Kolkata. Later when Suhrawardy joined Mahatma Gandhi in efforts to bring back communal harmony, Bangabandhu joined them.

After returning to Dhaka he joined Gonotantrik Jubo League and took up the cause of building communal harmony as his main mission. He was against all forms of communal violence, not simply between Hindus and Muslims but also between different Muslim sects and between Bengalis and non-Bengalis.

In his Unfinished Memoirs he strongly condemns the anti-Kadiyani riots that took place in Lahore in 1953. In 1954, when riots broke out between Bengali and non-Bengali workers in Adamjee jute mills in Narayanganj, he rushed to the area to calm the situation. In 1964 when Hindu-Muslim riots spread in India he started a civic campaign to prevent communal riots in East Bengal. Even in his March 7, 1971 speech he asked people to remain vigilant against the threat of communal violence. He said:

“Be very careful, keep in mind that the enemy has infiltrated our ranks to engage in the work of provocateurs. Whether Bengalee or non-Bengalee, Hindu or Muslim, all are our brothers and it is our responsibility to ensure their safety.”

In his personal life he followed the preachings of Islam. But Bangabandhu was against the political use of religion. He condemned the Muslim League’s practice of using the slogan of Islam and not paying attention to the economic well-being of the people which he argued was the goal for which “the working class, the peasants, and the labourers had made sacrifice during the movement for independence.”


Equality, freedom from exploitation, and oppression 

In his Unfinished Memoirs Bangabandhu writes:

“I myself am no communist, but I believe in socialism and not in capitalism. I believe capital is a tool of the oppressor. As long as capitalism is the mainspring of the economic order people all over the world will continue to be oppressed.”

By socialism he meant a system that would free people from exploitation and oppression and remove inequality. He visited China in 1952 which left a deep imprint in his mind. He found great differences in the living conditions of people in Pakistan and China which he attributed to the differences in the two political systems.

Bangabandhu believed that the government has a role to play in removing inequality and freeing people from exploitation. He admired the priorities set by the Chinese government in improving the socio-economic conditions of the people. He writes:

“Everywhere we could see new schools and colleges coming up. The government has taken charge of education.” He further writes:

“The communist government had confiscated the land owned by landlords and had distributed it among all farmers. Thus landless peasants had become land owners. China now belonged to peasants and workers and the class that used to dominate and exploit had had their day.”

He did not want to see inequality grow in Bangladesh. In the council session of the AL held during April 7-8, 1972, he reiterated his commitment to promote an exploitation-free socio-economic system and socialism was formally adopted as one of the ideals of the party. In the next council session of the party held in 1974 he, again, pledged to work for freeing the nation of exploitation and oppression.

People Orientation

People’s issues, people’s politics 

Often we find leaders who lead people towards great goals but they do not become emotionally involved with the people. Bangabandhu was an exception. When I compare the speeches of various leaders of the world with those of Bangabandhu, one of his off-repeated expressions — “love for people” — stands out as unique. He often talked about his love for people and people’s love for him in return.

He always prioritized the issues that are upper-most in ordinary people’s lives. His politics was people’s politics. During the campaign for Pakistan when famine struck, he worked in feeding centres for the famine victims. He worked to rescue the victims of communal riots in Kolkata. He participated in street rallies demanding food security for the poor in East Bengal. His political philosophy was not centred only around the goal of getting state power: He developed his political ideas by being involved with the concerns of the ordinary masses.

This people’s orientation made him a pragmatist. In his diaries he constantly refers to issues that would affect ordinary people’s everyday life such as the rise in essential commodity prices or tax increase or flood or famine.

At one level, Bangabandhu was a man of the masses. He learned about people’s aspirations from them. At another level he was the leader of the people. He carried forward ordinary people’s aspirations. He had faith in people. That is why he could call upon people on March 7, 1971 to join the liberation struggle with “whatever little they have.”

Four guiding principles of state

We see the reflections of Banganabdhu’s political philosophy in the four guiding principles of state adopted by our constitution: Nationalism, democracy, secularism, and socialism. He defended these four principles in various speeches delivered in the parliament, in the party forums, and in addresses to the nation.

Bangabandhu used to articulate the goals of his life’s work in two simple words. He would either say he wants to build again “Shonar Bangla” or he would say he wants to bring “a smile on the faces of the poor and unhappy people.” Bangabandhu never talked about GDP growth or other theoretical issues. He knew very well how precious a smile was and his goal was to achieve that priceless objective.


JUNE 10TH, 2019
Rounaq Jahan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka, Bangladesh.




Although 44 years have passed, justice for the killing of 25 people in three more attacks on the night of August 15 remain elusive due to inaction and negligence of the government

After a 35 year wait, the nation got justice for the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but the justice for the killing of 25 other people on the night of August 15 in 1975 is yet to see light.

Although 44 years have passed, justice for the killing of 25 people in three more attacks on the night of August 15 remain elusive due to inaction and negligence of the government.

According to case documents, some disgruntled army personnel killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s nephew and founding chairman of Awami Jubo League, Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, and his wife Arzu Moni, at their Dhanmondi residence on the same night.

In other attacks, Bangabandhu’s brother-in-law and former water resources minister Abdur Rab Serniabat was also killed at his Minto Road residence in the capital while a mortar assault by a group of army personnel killed 14 in Mohammadpur, taking the death toll to 34 on that fateful night.

Three cases were filed for these killings in 1996. Of the cases, two are still on the backburner while all the accused in the case filed for Sheikh Moni’s murder have been acquitted by a lower court following a final report of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Earlier, law Minister Anisul Huq and Attorney General Mahbubey Alam had said several times that they would take steps for disposal of the pending cases, but their offices are yet to make any move in this regard.

Ministry sources said they could do nothing about the Sheikh Moni murder case as the police had already given their final report in the case.

However, legal experts said the government can revive this case by conducting a further investigation, if they want.

Serniabat murder

According to the case, a group of army personnel led by Maj Shahriar Rashid, Maj Aziz Pasha, Capt Majed, and Capt Nurul Huda stormed Serniabat’s residence on 27 Minto Road at about 5:00am.

They went up to the first floor and broke open the door. Confused, Serniabat made a phone call to the residence of Bangabandhu.

The army officials rounded up the residents to the drawing room on the ground floor. Shahriar and Majed fired shots at them.

Frightened, Beauty Serniabat caught hold of her father, Abdur Rab Serniabat. Shahriar Rashid, Aziz Pasha, and Nurul Huda fired shots again and left the scene.

Abdur Rab Serniabat, his nephew Shaheed Serniabat, daughter Baby Serniabat, son Arif Serniabat, grandson Babu Serniabat, who was four, domestic helpers Potka and Laxmir Ma, and Abdur Naim Khan alias Rintu, died on the spot.

Abul Hasnat Abdullah, son of Abdur Rab Serniabat, survived hiding behind a door.

The case statement said Shahan Ara Begum, wife of Hasnat, her mother-in-law Amena Begum, brother-in-law Abul Khair Serniabat, sisters-in-law Beauty and Rina Serniabat, and domestic helpers Rana, Rafiqul Islam, Golam Mahmud, and Lalit Das, were seriously injured.

After the incident, Shahan Ara Begum filed a case with Ramna Police Station on October 21, 1996.

After the trial started against the 18 accused, including Bazlul Huda, the proceedings of the case were stayed by the High Court in November 1999 following a criminal revision filed by one of the accused, against the order of charge framing.

Public Prosecutor Abdus Sattar Dulal of Dhaka First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court told Dhaka Tribune: “The case is still pending with this court due to the stay order of the higher court.”

Sheikh Moni killing

A group of 25 to 30 army men surrounded Sheikh Moni’s House 170 on Road 13/1 in Dhanmondi at around 1:30am on August 15, 1975. Carrying Sten guns and Chinese rifles, eight to ten of them in black uniform went up to the first floor and came down after firing shots, said the case statement.

Moni’s close aide, Mohammad Shahabuddin, who was on the ground floor, went upstairs and found Moni and his wife Arzu lying on the floor in a critical condition.

Moni’s parents, younger sister Sheikh Rekha, and brother, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, were crying.

Sheikh Maruf, younger brother of Moni, turned up there. Arzu cried to Selim for help and asked him to save them and their two sons, Sheikh Fazle Shams Porosh and Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh.

Shahabuddin, Selim, and Maruf, took Sheikh Moni and Arzu to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, where the doctors declared them dead.

Long after the incident, Shahabuddin filed a case with Dhanmondi Police Station on November 20, 1996, accusing 16 people, including former deputy minister Taheruddin Thakur in the case.

After investigation, CID gave a final report clearing the accused in the case on August 22, 2002.

Accepting the CID’s report, the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court on December 30, 2002, acquitted all the accused without notifying the complainant in the case.

Neither the investigation officer nor the court concerned informed the plaintiff about the fate of the probe. Later, no initiative was taken for further investigation to date.

Mortar attack in Mohammadpur

According to the case, Mohammad Ali, of Sher Shah Suri Road in Mohammadpur, woke up with wounds in his left thigh at about 5:30am. He heard the sound of mortar fire.

Hearing cries, he went to a nearby house on Road-9 and found Rezia Begum, wife of the house owner, Musa, and their daughter Nasima, dead.

He then went to House-196 and 197 on Shahjahan Road in the neighbourhood where he saw the bodies of Habibur Rahman, Anwara Begum, another lady by the same name, Moyful Bibi, Sabera Begum, Abdullah, Rafiqul, Safia Khatun, Shahabuddin, Kasheda, Aminuddin, and Honufa Bibi, all killed by mortar fire.

Later, he came to know that 14 people had been killed in Mohammadpur by mortar shells fired by some military personnel.

Fourteen people were killed by mortar shells fired by military personnel in the Mohammadpur area on the same night.

Mohammad Ali filed a case with Mohammadpur Police Station on November 29, 1996, accusing Syed Farooq Rahman and 10 others for the incident.

The trial started with the Dhaka Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judges Court on November 1, 2006, against the 11 accused.

So far 14 out of 58 prosecution witnesses have testified in court.

The case was stuck in trial court due to non-appearance of witnesses and the alleged negligence of prosecution lawyers. The prosecution failed to produce any witnesses in the last five years since the witness Ramij Uddin had testified before the court on April 24, 2014.

Expressing frustration with the sluggish proceedings, complainant Mohammad Ali, also a freedom fighter who was injured in the attack, told Dhaka Tribune: “I want justice and want to die only after seeing judgment in the case.”


AUGUST 15TH, 2019

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They also believe that this will help policy continuation which will eventually be conducive for development and contribute to growth acceleration.

“The country’s growth rate increased from once 4-5 percent and 6 to 7 percent plus now. The growth will get momentum in future with the continuation of power,” eminent economic analyst Dr Zaid Bakht said. “Policy continuation is very important for development as it will be helpful for growth and development,” he added.

With the Awami League’s victory in the 11th national election, the country’s development efforts are likely to get a boost as mega projects will have some positive impacts with faster implementation.

Awami League has assumed office for the third consecutive term with a vision to lead the country to a prosperous nation. In its last 10 years’ rule, the nation witnessed a   socio-economic progress, driven by favourable policies and pragmatic steps. In the period, the country also saw 6.6 percent average growth against 5.1 percent global average that helped raise its status from a low-income LDC to a lower middle-income country ready to take off as a non-LDC country by 2024.

The growth rate climbed to over 7 percent rate in the last three consecutive years, while it hit 7.86 percent in the last fiscal year with per capita income rising to $1,751 from $759 in 2019

The government’s long-term Perspective Plan 2010-2021 and the sixth and seventh five-year plans were the driving force behind the success, according to analysts.

Economists think the increased public investment actually played the catalytic role in achieving the higher growth in the context of an apparently stagnant private investment.     Public investment now reached 7.8 percent of GDP. In the last 10 years foreign exchange reserve increased more than four times from $ 7.5 billion to $ 32.2 billion. The Bangladesh parliament has a record Tk 5.23  trillion (about 62 billion US dollars) national budget targeting an economic growth of 8.2 percent in 2019-20.

A major development indicator was lowering poverty. The poverty rate has come down to 21.8 per cent in 2018 which was 31.5 per cent in 2009 with extreme poverty rate slipping from a whopping 17.6 per cent to 11.3 per cent.

In the process of economic transformation, agriculture sector’s contribution to GDP, which has traditionally been large contributor, has weakened while the contribution of industry and service sectors is on the rise.

In the wake of achieving remarkable economic progress, time has now come to sustain the growth, Dr Zaid Bakht said. He thinks that the key challenge for the new government is going to raise the quality of public investment alongside increasing private investment.

Improving physical infrastructure, energy sector and skill level of workforce, and human resource development, lowering poverty further and narrowing inequality will be the major challenged in the coming days, he listed.

Another eminent economic analyst Dr Zahid Hussain, lead economic at World Bank’s Dhaka office, said bringing back discipline to financial sector, rationalizing public investment plan, more revenue earning and reforms to public administration will be the major challenges for the new government.

The government has to ensure that mega projects like Padma Bridge, metro-rail and construction of LNG terminals are completed during its present tenure so that the people as well as economy get benefits of those mega infrastructure projects, he noted.

The projects hurriedly approved on political consideration prior to the polls should be revisited, project management should be fixed and project priority should be set according to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he also suggested.

He said both tax policy and administration require reform to make them taxpayers’ friendly so that domestic revenue mobilization increases, which is also pre-requisite to achieving SDGs.

Efficiency and accountability of the public administration should be enhanced through some reforms including introduction of performance based promotion and salary increase system, he suggested.

“If a government coming to power  consecutively for three terms with a landslide victory can not bring reforms to the administration, then who’ll do this?” he said, in a reply to a question whether it will be possible for the new government.


JUNE 22, 2019



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DHAKA, June 19, 2019 (BSS)- Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said that Bangladesh achieved the fastest growth in the Asia-Pacific economies comprised of 45 countries.

The bank in its Asian Development Outlook (ADO), which was handed over to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today, also said that in the FY2018 the country attained 7.9 percent growth, the fastest expansion since 1974.

ADB Country Director for its Bangladesh resident mission Manmohan Parkash handed over the ADO to the Prime Minister at her Sangsad Bhaban office here this evening.

PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.

The bank in the ADO predicted that in the FY2019 and FY2020, the growth will be 8 percent, which the organization termed as new record.

“Bangladesh will continue to be the fastest in Asia-Pacific,” said the ADO.

The ADO, the annual publication of the ADB, evaluates and forecasts economic performance of 45 Asian and Pacific countries.

It said that growth will moderate across most of developing Asia- achieve 5.7 percent in 2019 and 5.6 percent in 2020 from 6.2 percent in 2017 and 5.9 percent in 2018.

South Asia will buck trend of slowing growth in Asia- achieve 6.8 percent in 2019 and 6.9 percent in 2020.

The ADO said that the key attributes of this growth are strong leadership, good governance, stable government and continued political calm, sound macroeconomic policy and right development priorities.

The drivers of the growth have been identified as higher public investment, stronger consumption demand, revival in exports, improved power supply and higher growth in private sector credit.

The ADO pointed that Bangladesh has favourable trade prospects despite a weaker global growth while exports and remittances likely to increase further.

It also mentioned that strong public investment due to continued policy environment and expeditious implementation of large infrastructure projects and higher tax collection with expanded tax base will move Bangladesh economy further.

It said that Bangladesh banking system reforms will attract higher private investment which will support growth.

Sheikh Hasina told the ADB country director that her government is gradually advancing the economy in a well-planned manner. “We have done our analysis before formulating the budget this year also,’” she said.

In this connection, the premier mentioned that when Awami League was in the opposition, her party also took various types of economic programmes for the sake of the country.

“Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had a vision for developing the country in totality and reducing the gap between rich and poor and urban and rural areas … we’re working towards that direction,” she said.

The prime minister said that the government is setting up 100 economic zones where investors from across the globe can set up their industries in Bangladesh.

Manmohan Parkash highly appreciated the economic plan of the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He said that all the development programmes of the government are people-centric.

PM’s Principal Secretary Md Nojibur Rahman and Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder were present at the meeting.


JUNE 19, 2019




Investments in health and education will likely boost Bangladesh’s productivity, according to a research by the multinational bank

With a sustainable GDP growth rate of 7%, Bangladesh is among the seven countries in the world that are expected to dominate world economy in the coming decade, says Standard Chartered Bank.

By 2030, Bangladesh’s per capita GDP is projected to be $5,700, surpassing India’s per capita GDP of $5,400, according to a research note from the multinational bank’s India-based Head of Thematic Research, Madhur Jha, and Global Chief Economist, David Mann.

The demographic dividend will be a boon for India, while Bangladesh’s investments in health, and education should juice productivity, the analysts said.

In 2018, Bangladesh was behind India in terms of per capita GDP, with $1,600 compared to India’s $1,900, the research data shows.

India is also expected to maintain growth rates of around 7%, Bloomberg reported.

Besides Bangladesh and India, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Philippines are also the members of the exclusive “7% club.” The other two are from Africa – Ethiopia, and Côte d’Ivoire.

Vietnam tops the list of the seven countries, with its per capita GDP expected to soar to $10,400 in 2030, from about $2,500 in 2018.

The Southeast Asian members of the group should be GDP standouts, as they will together account for about one-fifth of the world’s population by 2030, Jha and Mann reckon.

The Asian dominance of the list is a change from 2010, when the bank first started tracking the economies it expected to grow by around 7%.

Back then, there were 10 members evenly split between Asia and Africa: China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique.

China is notably missing in the latest ranking after being a member of the club for almost four decades — reflecting both a slowdown in economic growth, and a progression toward higher per-capita incomes, that makes faster growth rates more difficult to sustain.

The Standard Chartered Bank report estimates that the world’s No 2 economy will keep up a 5.5% economic growth pace in the 2020s.

Sub-Saharan African countries also have faded, which Jha and Mann attribute to “waning reform momentum, despite a slowdown in commodity prices.”

While faster economic growth is not a solution to all the problems, it does have a lot of positive knock-on effects, Jha and Mann said.

“Faster growth not only helps to lift people more quickly out of absolute poverty, but is also usually accompanied by better health and education, as well as a wider range of — and better access to — goods and services,” they say in the report. “Higher incomes resulting from faster growth also usually reduce socio-political instability and make it easier to introduce structural reforms, creating a virtuous cycle.”

In addition, 7% club members tend to have savings and investment rates of at least 20-25% of GDP, according to the report.


MAY 14TH, 2019




Bangladesh expected to achieve 8.0% growth in 2019 and 2020. According to the Asian Development Bank report ( Asian Development Outlook 2019 ) ” Bangladesh will continue to be the fastest in the Asia Pacific”.


Bangladesh Total GDP growth accelerated to 7.9% in the fiscal year 2018 from 7.3% in the previous year. Bangladesh Agriculture Sector grew by 4.2% , Industry grew by 12.1% on strong production in large and medium-sized industries and achieved self-sufficiency in food production. Investment increased from the equivalent of 30.5% of GDP in FY2017 to 31.2% in FY2018 as public investment rose from 7.4% of GDP to 8.0% and private investment increased slightly to 23.3%.


Tariff tensions between the People’s Republic of China and the US make Bangladesh an attractive alternative source of manufactures. Consequently, the trade deficit will narrow as growth in exports outpaces imports. Private investment is expected to rise in Bangladesh, supported by measures to increase private sector credit, reform initiatives to improve the ease of doing business, and plans to make several hundred industrial plots available in special economic zones. On the supply side, further expansion in industry is expected to drive growth in FY2019 as export growth accelerates. Growth in agriculture is expected to moderate, considering the high base set last year



Better governance is required in the banking sector.Indications of weak governance are a high ratio of expenditure to income, high administrative and operating expenses, lendingwith scant appraisal, weak credit monitoring, a lack of integrity and compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and inefficient appointments in management . The authorities should ensure strict enforcement of existing bank rules and regulations. They might consider consolidation, merger, or divestment for SCBs, or even privatization to reduce their number. Alternatively, restructuring SCBs could be considered before divestment. The authorities could also consider establishing a national asset management company to take over NPLs from ailing banks

Revenue Collection

Budget revenue underperformed its target and declined from the equivalent of 10.2% of GDP in FY2017 to 9.6% with slower growth in value-added tax and supplementary duty collection at the import stage, while nontax revenue collection also underperformed. Government spending was lower than budgeted and declined marginally to the equivalent of 13.5% of GDP,

Account Deficit

Despite larger remittances, the current account deficit grew abruptly from $1.3 billion in FY2017 to $9.8 billion, equal to 3.6% of GDP, as the surge in imports doubled the trade deficit, and deficits in services and primary income widened


Export growth surged from 1.7% in FY2017 to 6.4% as garment exports, accounting for over 80% of the total exports, recovered from only 0.2% growth in FY2017 to 8.8% on stronger demand in the euro area. Other exports declined by 7.0% on lower demand for a number of other manufactured products.

Substantial progress in implementing large infrastructure projects, notably the Padma Bridge and Dhaka Metro Rail

The overall Growth of South Asia is expected to
edge up by 0.1 percentage point, from 6.7% in 2018 to 6.8% in 2019 and again
to 6.9% in 2020 . Inflation in South Asia was stable at 3.7% in 2018 with benign food inflation and despite higher global oil prices. Subregional inflation is expected rise to 4.7% in 2019 and 4.9% in 2020 under pressure from currency depreciation.

South Asia will remain the fastest-growing
subregion in the world, projected to grow by 6.8% in 2019
and 6.9% in 2020, led by Bangladesh at 8.0% in both years


JUNE 21, 2019




ADB Country Director Manmohan Parkash addresses the media at the bank’s Dhaka office on Wednesday, where their flagship economic report, titled ‘Asian Development Outlook 2019,’ was unveiled Dhaka Tribune

To sustain the robust growth, reforms in various areas are required including strengthening of the banking sector, says the regional lender

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has dubbed Bangladesh as the fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region, while forecasting an 8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the current fiscal year based on the continuing positive trend in exports and public investments.

However, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) estimates an 8.13% GDP growth for FY2019-20.

The Manila-based regional lender came up with the forecast in its flagship economic report, titled “Asian Development Outlook 2019,” released on Wednesday.

ADB Country Director for Bangladesh Manmohan Parkash unveiled the report, highlighting various economic aspects of Bangladesh, at a media briefing at the bank’s Dhaka office.

GDP growth is expected to edge up to 8% in the FY2019 on robust private consumption aided by continued recovery, while growth in FY2020 is expected to remain solid at 8% as momentum from the previous year broadly continues, according to ADB’s forecast.

On the supply side, further expansion in industry is expected to drive growth in the FY2019 as export growth accelerates, it added.

ADB says strong private consumption buoyed by a recovery in remittances and public investment contributed in the robust GDP growth, reflecting substantial progress in implementing large infrastructure projects, notably the Padma Bridge and Dhaka’s metro rail project.

The bank’s Senior Economist in Dhaka Soon Chan Hong said: “Strong economic performance is expected to continue in the short-term. To sustain the robust growth, reforms in various areas are required including strengthening of the banking sector.”

Fastest growing economy in Asia

According to ADB, Bangladesh is also expected to post higher GDP growth in the current fiscal year compared to other Asian countries.

For the FY2019, ADB forecasts 7.2% GDP growth for India; 3.9% for Pakistan; 6.8% for Vietnam; 3.9% for Thailand; 4.5% for Malaysia; 6.6% for Myanmar; 2.5% for Hong Kong; 6.2% for Nepal; and 3.6% for Sri Lanka.

The report also forecasts that growth in the region will soften to 5.7% in 2019 and 5.6% in 2020. Developing Asia’s growth in 2018 was 5.9%.

Public-private investment to grow

ADB also forecasts that public investment will remain strong as Bangladesh government continues to expedite the implementation of large infrastructure projects and other large projects with overseas support.

Private investment is expected to rise too, supported by measures to increase private sector credit, reform initiatives to improve the ease of doing business, and plans to make several hundred industrial plots available in special economic zones.

According to BBS data, in FY2017-18, investment to GDP ratio was 31.23% — of which 7.97% was from public investment and 23.26% from private sector investment.

However, for the current fiscal, the government forecasts that the investment to GDP ratio will stand at 31.57% — of which 8.17% will come from public investment and 23.40% from private sector investment.

Recipe to sustain the growth

In retaining the growth momentum, ADB has suggested bringing reforms to the banking sector, which is going through a crucial time due to the huge burden of Non-Performing Loans (NPLs).

Manmohan Parkash said: “To sustain this momentum in the medium to long-term, Bangladesh requires expanded industrial base, diversified export basket, improved business environment for vibrant private sector development, expanded tax base, better revenue collection for increased resource allocation, and human capital development.

He added that continued focus on prudent macroeconomic policies, sound debt management, strengthening the banking sector, removing infrastructure constraints and reducing the cost of doing business were important to achieve the long-term development vision.

Further, to sustain higher investment and growth, the banking system requires strengthening reforms such as enforcing stronger regulations, introducing a bankruptcy law, corporatizing SCBs, applying a uniform guideline for writing off loans, said the ADB report.

Further, to improve governance, appointment to SCB boards of directors can be limited to competent professionals who possess operational knowledge of banking and finance, avoiding political appointments.

Moreover, SCB management should be given full operational independence, but both the board and management should remain accountable to the central bank.

Export to remain robust

ADB also forecasts a better and sustained export growth, which is expected to be buoyed by the trade war between US and China.

“Despite a weaker growth outlook in key exports markets, earnings from apparel exports are expected higher as new destinations strengthen,” the development outlook says.

Tariff tensions between China and the US make Bangladesh an attractive alternative source of manufactures, it added.

Consequently, the trade deficit will narrow as growth in exports outpaces imports.

Besides, inflation is expected to ease from 5.8% last year to an average of 5.5% in the FY2019, contained by a good harvest and lower global food and oil prices.

Year-on-year inflation declined to 5.5% in February 2019 from 5.7% a year before.

Inflation is projected to edge up to 5.8% in FY2020 on account of likely further upward adjustments in gas and electricity prices, and currency depreciation.


APRIL 3RD, 2019




A World Bank report also projected a 7.3% GDP growth for FY2019

Bangladesh is among the five fastest-growing economies of the world, despite insufficient private sector investment, with a 7.3% GDP growth projection in the FY2019, the World Bank said yesterday.

As per the projection of the global lender, Bangladesh is the fifth in the rank of fastest growing economies after Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bhutan, and India respectively. Bangladesh shares the position with Djibouti, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Ethiopia’s GDP is projected to grow by 8.8%, Rwanda 7.8%, Bhutan 7.6% and India 7.5%.

The World Bank announced this ranking in its report titled “The Bangladesh Development Update April 2019: Towards Regulatory Predictability,” published yesterday in Dhaka.

For this rapid growth, the global lender has given credit to the manufacturing industry as well as domestic demand.

“Driven by industry, Bangladesh’s economy continues to grow at an impressive rate. Bangladesh is among the five fastest growing economies of the world, in spite of insufficient private sector investment,” said the World Bank report.

Bangladesh’s growth outlook remains strong and stable. Sound macroeconomic policies – such as keeping the budget deficit below 5% of GDP – and resilient domestic demand have led to growth in manufacturing and construction industries on the supply side. On the demand side, growth is led by private consumption and exports, it added.

“In addition, the country has substantially improved its electricity generation and a bumper agricultural harvest has further stimulated growth.

“Bangladesh continues to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Robust growth in industrial and service sectors, supported by higher public and private consumption, have boosted growth,” said World Bank Bangladesh Country Director Robert J Saum.

After a modest performance in FY18, export earning so far this year from ready-made garments expanded by double digits, and non-garment exports also bounced back, said Saum.

‘Many risks to sustaining growth’

Bangladesh economy continues to be among the fastest growing economies in the world due to stable macro and export-oriented industry-led growth, the World Bank report said.

To sustain this progress, the country needs continuity in priority reform areas: financial sector, fiscal, infrastructure, human capital and business regulation.

“For Bangladesh, our projection is that it will be able to maintain over 7% GDP growth in the short-mid-term. But there are risk factors from both external and internal sources,” said World Bank Bangladesh Lead Economist Zahid Hussain.

The biggest internal risk is in the banking sector, which is ridden with Non-performing Loans (NPLs). Another risk is a shortfall in revenue mobilization, which hinders the implementation of the development budget.

“But there is strong growth,” said Zahid.

To make economic growth sustainable, Bangladesh has to maintain continuity in reforms, especially in the banking sector. Sustainability in the country’s macroeconomy is most important, said the economist.

To this end, the government has to concentrate on bringing stability to the financial sector and increasing price competitiveness in the global market, he added.

In order to become an upper middle-income country by 2031 and achieve high-income country status by 2041, Bangladesh will require huge investments in physical capital, human capital, and innovation enabled by reforms in areas such as financial sector, business regulation, and to address the infrastructure gap.

Private sector investment remains slow

In the development update, the World Bank has noted that private sector investments in Bangladesh remain weak.

Private investment to GDP rate increased a little bit but the investment is not up to the satisfactory level. While Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to GDP is less than its competing countries, said Zahid.

As of now, FDI remains low at less than 1% of GDP. Net FDI inflow amounted to $910 million in the first half of FY19, compared with $823 million in the first half of FY18.

Initiatives are needed to address several challenges, particularly in boosting private sector investment and diversifying exports. Domestic revenue mobilization is well behind the target so far this year, said WB Country Director Saum.

Concerns over the rise of NPLs

In the development update, the WB expressed concern over the rise of non-performing loans (NPLs).

Directed lending, poor risk management, and weak corporate governance lead to the rise in NPLs. The practice of loan rescheduling and write-offs also increased, creating further stress on banks, said the World Bank report.

To bring stability and discipline to the financial sector, Bangladesh has to ensure Bangladesh Bank’s autonomy on regulation, integrate risk-based supervision in the central bank’s supervisory framework, tighten rescheduling guidelines and stop ad-hoc rescheduling, said Zahid.

Lack of regulatory predictability hits medium enterprise

Businesses face regulatory uncertainty on various fronts, which is an issue that needs proper attention as the investment decision depends on the regulatory predictability.

Regulatory predictability matters because it makes property rights insecure, thereby constraining investment. This leads to uncertainty for businesses – medium-size firms seem to bear the brunt more than large or small firms – and with inconsistencies in policy implementation, it can adversely affect employment growth, said the World Bank report.

As highlighted in the report, sustaining rapid economic growth to meet Bangladesh’s development aspirations will require significant reform efforts including increasing the predictability of regulations, said Saum.

In a report released on Wednesday, the Asian Development Bank dubbed Bangladesh the fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region, while forecasting an 8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the current fiscal year based on the continuing positive trend in exports and public investments.

However, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics estimates an 8.13% GDP growth for the FY2019-20.


APRIL 4TH, 2019




Projects less inflationary pressure ahead

Bangladesh is among the three fastest growing economies in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — in yet another thumping endorsement of the country’s extraordinary growth momentum.

The economy will grow at 7.3 percent this year, which will be second highest in the world, as per the IMF report ‘World Economic Outlook, April 2019: Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery’ revealed on Tuesday.

Neighbouring India will also grow at the same pace as Bangladesh but Rwanda will grow the fastest at 7.8 percent.

The three countries would be the only ones in the world to log in more than 7 percent growth this year.

The IMF’s projection comes on the heels of the World Bank’s and the Asian Development Bank’s.

The World Bank, which does not use calendar year in its projections like its counterpart IMF, said Bangladesh would be among the five fastest growing economies in the world this fiscal year with its 7.3 percent growth.

The Asian Development Bank tipped Bangladesh to log in the fastest economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region in fiscal 2019-20. This fiscal year, the economy will grow at 8 percent.

The two multilateral lenders’ projections for this fiscal year, however, are lower than the prediction of the government: 8.13 percent.

The IMF projected that Bangladesh will see less inflationary pressure and an improvement in its external position this year.

Inflation will be 5.4 percent this year, which was 5.6 percent last year.

Current account deficit was rising in the last two consecutive years. The negative balance was 2.1 percent of GDP in 2017 and 2.8 percent in 2018. In 2019, the negative balance will narrow to 1.9 percent of the GDP, the IMF report said.

Among other South Asian economies, Bhutan will grow at 4.8 percent, the Maldives 6.3 percent, Nepal 6.5 percent, Sri Lanka 3.5 percent and Pakistan 2.9 percent this year.

The world economy will slow down to 3.3 percent from 3.6 percent last year thanks to a slump in the major economies of China, the US, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Rising trade tension between China and the US is another reason for the slow down in global economy.


APRIL 11, 2019




Bangladesh would be a $3 trillion economy

Generally, four approaches have been used to prepare a long-term perspective plan found in development literature. These are: Making long tern projections of socio-economic indicators under specific and alternative assumptions; following a vision for the future by political leaders like Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s “Vision 2021” agenda for Bangladesh and “Malaysia 2020” by Mahthir Mohamad — investigating the economy under alternative policy regimes (control, mixed or market) by World Bank “China 2020” and finally, OECD’s “The World in 2020-Towards a New Global Age.”

Let us look briefly at what was in the “the most powerful economies in the world by 2050”report which was constructed by PwC last December. In making this report, it was predicted that “there will be 32 most powerful economies in the world by 2050.” Bangladesh has been predicted to be in this 32 nation club as the 23rd largest economy of the world. In other words, Bangladesh would be a three trillion dollar economy by 2050, superseding Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and a close second to Canada.

The readers may think this statement is the hoax of the century. Well, let me provide the GDP figures of some in 2050 as predicted in the report: Australia $2.564 trillion, South Africa $2.570tn, Spain $2.732tn, Thailand $2.782tn, Malaysia $2.815tn, Bangladesh $3.064tn, and Canada, $3.1tn.

Why would Bangladesh have such a meteoric rise by 2050? Let me provide some relevant information from several studies. I commenced a study in 2000 with the support of the University of Hull, Griffith University, and Dhaka University in a program called Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Professorial Fellowship.

The GDP per capita advanced almost nine-fold as a result of sustained growth in GDP, between 5% and 7.5% in recent decades, and per capita income rose to $1,751 in 2017/18 from only $378 in 2001/02. The difference of population growth and GDP growth in 2015 suggests that GDP has been growing by more than 4 times. Contrast this with 1983, when the population growth was more than 27 times that of the GDP rate.

The inflation rate has been brought down to single digit, whereas it was running at a double digit over a long period of time since 1976 after the carnage of 1975. The literacy rate has improved to over 75% at present, and life expectancy has crossed well above 72 years.

According to a recent report published by the Bangladesh Planning Commission, the national poverty level went down to less than one fourth of the population, compared to almost one half before 1996. More interestingly, the ultra-poor in 2016 make 10.6% out of the 24.3% total poor. Poverty has declined steadily, and other social indicators have improved too.

Bangladesh, with 83% access to shared and improved sanitation facilities, fared much better than India at 53% and Pakistan at 54% in 2010. Professor Amartya Sen himself was very impressed with Bangladesh’s achievements in sanitation, reported in The Guardian in 2014.

AHM Mahmood Ali, MP and current Foreign Minister in an election campaign a couple of days ago insisted on quoting the World Bank, and that with all achievements in the economic and social fronts, Bangladesh has shifted from being a “low-income to a middle-income” country. Most importantly, it needs to maintain present status on various measures until 2024, before this upward movement in the ladder as middle-income nation has been officially recognized.

Recently, the PM stated that the World Bank’s 2024 deadline would be achieved by 2021, the nation’s 50thanniversary of independence. In other words, one can safely say Sheikh Hasina’s “Vision 2021” is just three years from becoming a reality, indeed recognized as a middle-income nation.

Coming back to Bangladesh, the country’s prospects in becoming one of the 32 most powerful economies of the world by 2050 certainly seems to be on track, and the PM in recent years has been talking about her “Vision 2041” agenda, for the country catching up to the developed nations by 2041.

With the current momentum of growth and policies in place — for example, establishing 100 economic zones for both public and private sectors — there comes a point in mind – the steps to enrich skills by investing in technical education via ministry of education, and the infrastructure projects currently being implemented are indeed steps towards making the audacious hope into reality.

They say prosperity does not come cheaply. From the time of the Industrial Revolution, the prosperity of nations has come with a cost — and in the process, our planet Earth has become a hot house. Global warming-induced climate change is now possibly the greatest threat to prosperity.

The list of the most powerful economies in the world by 2050, if materialized, suggests a decline of the West and rise of the large (population-wise) nations like China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and Bangladesh among others. Out of, say 9 billion people in 2050, almost 8bn would enjoy prosperity.

If the world does not address the issues of climate change, and inequality persists until 2050, the meaning of prosperity, or living a “better” life, will not be meaningful. Over a billion people remaining in poverty, coupled with persisting hot weather, one can see easily the type of life and livelihood that shall be enjoyed by these overpopulated so called prosperous nations.

The time has come to redefine the growth-led economic development, and restricting the use of fossil fuels as the engines of growth. The profession of economics over the last two centuries has shown the pathways to the growth of nations. Today, and until the end of time, this profession will keep making this contribution.

Economists are also addressing the issues of inequality, and to bring the world to a point of warming at a reasonable rate, so that the monster that is climate change can be brought under control.

In this respect, the 2018 Nobel for economics was offered to two economists who have both demonstrated how the world leaders (in political terms) can make the planet a place with prosperity, and how to sustain that prosperity without destroying the planet. For the readers, it is important to know what exactly these two scholars have been working with, in order to repair the damage in the two important areas: Increased inequality and global warming induced climate change.

The rest of this piece is based on a recent article by Sergey V Popov of Cardiff University. He states in one part that both the winners of the Nobel are in view that the basis of economic growth should not be solely based on producing goods in factories. William Nordhaus and Paul Romer won the 2018 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences for their works in three areas: The reasons behind economic growth, why sustainable growth is important, and how to address the threat from climate change.

Let us first look at economic growth.  According to Romer, “the rate of growth of GDP per person began to meaningfully depend upon the proportion of the labour force dedicated to developing new ideas … in the long run due to more ideas leading to better productivity.” In other words, research, education, and skills are behind the increased productivity which contributes to economic growth.

On the other hand, according to Nordhaus, nations “aimed mostly at obtaining a certain growth rate and ignoring the fact that many economic goods, such as natural resources and clean air, are hard to reproduce. Climate change and its effect in everyone’s well- being is not a part of national accounts, while profits and GDP are.”

Nordhaus has used in his models climate change explicitly when explaining the economic growth, taking for example, changes due to Kyoto protocol into consideration. The results provide the clue for analyzing the social cost of CO2 emissions, regionally and globally.

In summary, both Romer and Nordhaus have contributed to the economics profession in the same way. They recognized that economic growth should not be driven solely by putting more people into factories and getting more out of them. In other words, they pushed the ball to the court of political leaders and scientists in order to work out which way they should go, whether to achieve speed of growth, or grow sustainably. It is time for all nations in the club of 32 to take lessons from China, Korea, and India.

In Bangladesh’s case, our carbon footprint is too low to register on the world stage at this moment, but the nation needs to develop the ever-expanding energy sector by opting for renewable energy.

Recently, Professor Jomo Sundram of Malaysia has said, day by day, the cost of solar energy production is going down, and Bangladesh is in a better position than most to take this advantage now, connecting SMEs with solar power.


Moazzem Hossain is a freelance writer based in Brisbane
OCTOBER 14, 2018