From the Editor-in-Chief: Khaleda Zia should not misinterpret history

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, May 26th, 2016
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BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s intense dislike for Bangabandhu, his family and his politics is becoming increasingly more pronounced these days. Indeed, it raises questions about her understanding of history and of politics in the public mind.  She appears to have little idea, despite having served as the country’s prime minister, of the civility politics demands. Naturally, such an attitude evokes outrage among citizens.

 

Last week, when a delegation of Bangladesh’s leading Buddhists called on her on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, she preferred not to dwell on the message of Buddhism or on the essence of faith but without any reason or rhyme attacked the Father of the Nation. Her behaviour must surely have left the venerable visitors surprised in as much as it left the rest of us shocked.

 

Seasoned politicians are expected to be above all manner of prejudice. Begum Zia’s ire against the Awami League and Bangabandhu has kept her from reaching the heights coveted by mature leaders. The fact that she leads a major political party and has been head of government has been inconsequential for her, however.

 

The former prime minister told the Buddhist delegation that it was Ziaur Rahman, not Bangabandhu, who declared the country independent forty five years ago. That is a refrain she and her party have endlessly bandied about over the past four decades. But the new outrage from the BNP chief this time was her revelation that in March 1971 Bangabandhu collected his pipe and went off to spend a time of relaxation in the then West Pakistan even as the nation plunged into war. Such statements undermine the one who makes it. As the widow of General Ziaur Rahman, Khaleda Zia ought to have remembered that her husband on his own never claimed a place in history above Bangabandhu’s. It is a pity that Begum Zia, through what is clearly a deliberate lack of understanding of history, has now reached a point where she is raising questions about her political judgment. That is a sad thing to happen.

 

The BNP chief has claimed, to everyone’s stupefaction, that the Awami League is not a pro-Liberation party. One does not have to point out to her that her statement is one made from sheer ignorance or deliberate prejudice. The truth is something else. It centres around the many ways in which Zia undermined the spirit of the Liberation War in his years in power. And, of course, she conveniently looks away from the scandal of some notorious war criminals she brought into her government, to our intense collective shame.

 

We believe Begum Khaleda Zia, in her own interest and in the interest of her party, should be more circumspect in her view of national history in future. It will do her immense good. Too much of historical distortion has gone on since 1975. Must the BNP chief add to that bad experience?

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