From the Editor-in-Chief: Begum Zia’s birthday question

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, August 18th, 2016
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We at Dhaka Courier welcome Begum Khaleda Zia’s decision not to observe her birthday this year through cutting the usual annual cake. Some of her loyalists have let it be known that the decision was influenced by the BNP chief’s belief that there is an absence of democracy in the country. What exactly she means by that and her view that democracy is really not there is a subject one can debate in detail.


But it is the Begum’s decision not to celebrate her birthday in the usual manner this year which evokes our appreciation. In these past many years, the former prime minister has given rise to controversy through her obstinate observance of what has been touted as her birthday on 15 August. There can certainly be nothing wrong in an individual celebrating his or her birthday on 15 August, for one’s birth is not in one’s hands but is part of the natural process of procreation. We in this country would have had no reason to quarrel with Begum Zia on the issue of her birthday provided we were sure that 15 August was actually the date when she was born. Complicating matters for her, however, is that the BNP leader is on record with three birthdays to her credit. Now, that looks like, to borrow a phrase from the Irish writer Oscar Wilde, something of carelessness. On a more serious note, when an individual as politically known as Begum Zia cannot quite decide on the date of her birth and ends up giving people three dates one after the other, something of tragicomedy is what we experience. That certainly should not have been the case with Begum Zia.


There are, however, people who remain convinced that the Begum and her loyalists fixed on 15 August as the date of her birth because they wanted to make light of the most tragic episode in the nation’s history. Nothing can be more disturbing, nothing can be as endlessly painful as the memories of the Father of the Nation, especially the brutal manner in which he and his family were assassinated on 15 August 1975. Even if 15 August is the day on which the BNP chief was born, there is still a question of morality which one must deal with. When an entire nation observes 15 August as a day of mourning and pays homage to the Father of the Nation, it is rather indecent for anyone to insist that the day be observed publicly as the birthday of a well-known public figure or indeed of any citizen.


When it is the tragic anniversary of the death of the nation’s founder that is observed on 15 August, those born on that date ought to downplay their celebrations. It is plainly unethical to defy an entire grieving nation through a noisy celebration of a birthday.


But let us once again welcome Begum Zia’s gesture this year. While we do so, we expect that this non-observance of the BNP leader’s birthday on 15 August will from here on be a permanent feature of the politics pursued by the BNP and its leader.

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